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ODYSSEY OF

THE WEST V
A Classic Education
through the Great Books
ENLIGHTENMENT,
REVOLUTION, AND RENEWAL
COURSE GUIDE

Professor Timothy B. Shutt,


KENYON COLLEGE, Series Editor
Featuring Professors Fred E. Baumann,
Joel F. Richeimer, and
Donald M.G. Sutherland
Odyssey of the West V
A Classic Education through the Great Books
Enlightenment, Revolution, and Renewal

Professor Timothy B. Shutt


Kenyon College
Series Editor

Featuring Professors Fred E. Baumann, Joel F. Richeimer,


and Donald M.G. Sutherland

Recorded Books™ is a trademark of


Recorded Books, LLC. All rights reserved.
Odyssey of the West V:
A Classic Education through the Great Books:
Enlightenment, Revolution, and Renewal
Professor Timothy B. Shutt, series editor
Featuring Professors Fred E. Baumann, Joel F. Richeimer,
and Donald M.G. Sutherland


Executive Producer
John J. Alexander

Executive Editor
Donna F. Carnahan

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COURSE GUIDE
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Lecture content ©2008 by Timothy B. Shutt,


©2008 by Fred E. Baumann, ©2008 by Joel F. Richeimer,
and ©2008 by Donald M.G. Sutherland
Course guide ©2008 by Recorded Books, LLC

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Course Syllabus

Odyssey of the West V:


A Classic Education through the Great Books:
Enlightenment, Revolution, and Renewal

About Your Professors .................................................................................................4

Introduction...................................................................................................................5

Lecture 1 Louis XIV ...............................................................................................6


Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland

Lecture 2 Voltaire.................................................................................................10
Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland

Lecture 3 David Hume .........................................................................................14


Professor Joel F. Richeimer

Lecture 4 Immanuel Kant.....................................................................................22


Professor Joel F. Richeimer

Lecture 5 Jean-Jacques Rousseau .....................................................................30


Professor Fred E. Baumann

Lecture 6 Adam Smith .........................................................................................34


Professor Fred E. Baumann

Lecture 7 The Federalist Papers .........................................................................38


Professor Fred E. Baumann

Lecture 8 The French Revolution and Empire.....................................................42


Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland

Lecture 9 Romanticism and Romantic Art ...........................................................48


Professor Timothy B. Shutt

Lecture 10 Romanticism and Literature.................................................................52


Professor Timothy B. Shutt

Lecture 11 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel ...........................................................57


Professor Joel F. Richeimer

Lecture 12 Karl Marx .............................................................................................65


Professor Fred E. Baumann

Lecture 13 Darwin and the Theory of Evolution ....................................................69


Professor Timothy B. Shutt

Lecture 14 The Nineteenth-Century Novel ............................................................74


Professor Timothy B. Shutt

Course Materials ........................................................................................................80

3
About Your Professors
TIMOTHY B. SHUTT has taught for more than twenty
years at Kenyon College, famed for splendid teaching,
literary tradition, and unwavering commitment to the
liberal arts. No teacher at Kenyon has ever been more
Photo courtesy of Timothy B. Shutt

often honored, both by the college and by students, for


exceptional skills in the classroom and as a lecturer.
Professor Shutt is the director of Kenyon’s interdiscipli-
nary Integrated Program in Humane Studies. His
courses have always been heavily oversubscribed,
and he lectures on Homer, Plato, Aristotle, the Bible,
the Greek historians, Virgil, and Dante every year to
a packed house.

FRED E. BAUMANN is the Harry M. Clor Professor of


Political Science at Kenyon College. He teaches
courses in the history of political philosophy, politics
and literature, diplomatic history, and statesmanship.
Photo courtesy of Fred E. Baumann

Baumann is the author of Fraternity and Politics:


Choosing One’s Brothers, and an associate editor of
the journal Interpretation. Baumann received the
Senior Faculty Trustee Teaching Award and was
invited to give the Founders Day talk.

JOEL F. RICHEIMER is an associate professor of phi-


losophy at Kenyon College. He earned his Ph.D. from
the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has pub-
lished and presented philosophical articles in the areas
Photo courtesy of Joel F. Richeimer

of perception, law, Aristotle, and science.

DONALD M.G. SUTHERLAND is a professor of


history at the University of Maryland in College Park,
Maryland. His first book, The Chouans: A Social
Photo courtesy of Donald M.G. Sutherland

History of Popular Counterrevolution in Upper Brittany,


1780–1795 (1982), received honorable mention from
the Canadian Historical Association. He also shared
the Koren Prize awarded by the Society for French
Historical Studies for the best article in a given year.
He has received a number of other awards and
fellowships, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship
for 2001–2002.

4
Introduction
The Odyssey of the West series continues its grand exploration of the litera-
ture, revolutionary theories, and feats of intellectual progress that have
shaped—and continue to shape—the modern world. In Enlightenment,
Revolution, and Renewal, Professor Timothy B. Shutt of Kenyon College is
joined by Professors Fred E. Baumann (Kenyon College), Joel F. Richeimer
(Kenyon College), and Donald M.G. Sutherland (University of Maryland) for a
remarkable distillation of human development in the eighteenth and nine-
teenth centuries. Indeed, the pace of change in the West during this time
period seemingly increases as countless new pressures—among them social
and cultural transformation wrought by the scientific revolution and the emer-
gence of new kinds of industry—begin to exert their influence.
This installment of the Odyssey of the West series offers concise, pertinent
summations of such notable and fascinating historical figures as Louis XIV, a
man who in many ways was the apotheosis of an absolute monarch; Voltaire,
a writer at the center of some of the most important issues of public policy in
the eighteenth century; David Hume, the eminent eighteenth-century Scottish
philosopher and economist who was also a professional historian; and
Charles Darwin, the legendary scientist whose theory of evolution changed
the way people understood the development of life on Earth. In addition to
these great thinkers, this course introduces Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques
Rousseau, Adam Smith, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Karl Marx.
Ultimately—in weaving together the varied and interrelated strands of eigh-
teenth- and nineteenth-century discourse and events—this course focuses on
the contributions to Western history that bear the most responsibility for shap-
ing the world of today. Among these contributions are such vital, yet markedly
different documents as the Federalist Papers and the Communist Manifesto.
New styles of art and literature are also given a stunning treatment, as the
professors delve into discussions on Romantic trends in both art and litera-
ture. But perhaps most important of all is the single most influential event in
the last five hundred years—the scientific revolution—which serves as the
engine of progress driving much of the social, political, and cultural change
seen in this dramatic period.

5
Lecture 1:
Louis XIV
(Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is William Beik’s Louis XIV and
Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents.

Louis XIV is the apotheosis of an absolute


monarch. In many respects, however, he was
a traditional king, enormously conscious of
the line of French kings that stretched back
more than a millennium, determined to pre-
serve his kingdom and extend his glory. At
the same time, when he died in 1715, he left
behind a troubled kingdom, one that was anx-
ious that the king might have gone too far,
that his wars were too many and too expen-
sive, and that the means he had used to pro-
mote these wars had upended the ancient
prerogatives of the various governing bodies
of the realm. These anxieties were based on
standards that measured wise kingship from a
conservative point of view, but within a gener-
ation of his death these ideas were laying the
basis for ideas of a constitution and the

© COREL
claims of individual conscience.
The powers of French kings and many of Louis XIV
their European counterparts derived from (1638–1715)
their authority as dispensers of justice. They by Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1701
were also conceived of as representatives of
God on Earth, and since God was the source of justice, royal justice reflected
divine. That is why there could be no thought of rebelling against the king.
Rebellion was a sin. All the risings of the seventeenth century accordingly
began as petition drives to seek redress from the king. They always exempt-
ed the king from blame for high taxes or religious persecution.
French kings were “absolute” in that they had final authority. They were by
no means tyrants. Their coronation oath and custom alike bound them to
respect the Salic Law (that kings had to descend from the male line); to extir-
pate heresy; to respect the hereditary privileges of the clergy and nobility and
the rights of provinces and towns.
The rights and privileges of the three orders—clergy, nobility, and everyone
else—were regarded as compensation for services to the kingdom. These
LECTURE ONE

included exemptions, especially tax exemption, monopolies, and so on. The


clergy, for instance, was tax exempt down to the end of the Old Regime, had
its own courts, collected the tithe, and had precedence over the other orders.
While Louis XIV certainly respected his heritage, he was determined to

6
assert the primacy of the monarchy. He claimed in the memoirs he wrote as
a young man that glory ought to be the goal of any worthy king. In addition,
rebellions in the early part of his reign marked his political outlook permanent-
ly. In particular, the “Fronde” (1648–52), an urban and aristocratic rebellion
against the fiscal sacrifices the monarchy demanded during the Thirty Years
War, made the young king deeply suspicious of Paris and of the high nobility.
The king’s solution was to enhance his own position at the center of the
polity. The great symbol of this policy was the construction of the Palace
of Versailles. The palace was located in a forested area where the king
could indulge in hunting, a great passion of his, yet it lay within the bound-
aries of the city of Paris. The court moved to the new palace in 1682. Its
architecture was designed to impress everyone with the king’s majesty.
Versailles was also the backdrop to a magnificent court with Louis at the
center. An elaborate ceremonial was designed to govern proximity to the King
and make supplicants compete for his favor. In other words, the court was
also a vast source of patronage and perhaps the largest marriage market in
the kingdom.
The king would also have argued that he strengthened the Catholic church
in France. The Gallican Articles of 1682 confirmed a long-standing claim of
the French Church’s independence of the papacy and of the superiority of
church councils over the pope in matters of faith.
Other religious measures were more controversial. Louis’s piety deepened
as he aged, and he found the existence of the Protestant minority in France
an affront. All contemporaries believed that religious diversity was harmful.
Protestants were a tempting target for France’s enemies, England and the
Dutch Republic, and a religious minority was in itself divisive. Louis’s grandfa-
ther, Henri IV, had been forced to grant Protestants some rights of assembly
and civil status in 1598, not so much out of conviction as a means of pacify-
ing the kingdom. His successors had gradually whittled down Protestant privi-
leges and the numbers of Protestants, or “Huguenots,” gradually dwindled to
less than a million. The occasion for the final blow was France’s refusal to aid
the rival, albeit Christian, Hapsburgs in the defense of Vienna against the
Turks in 1683. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 aimed to high-
light the king’s Catholic bona fides. Not only did the new Edict maintain that
there were no more Protestants left, there followed a multigeneration perse-
cution of pastors and their flocks. The result was an huge emigration and an
intractable revolt, known as the Camisard Rebellion, that broke out in 1702.
Louis’s reputation as a tyrant was laid in Protestant Europe and later in the
Enlightenment. In France itself at the time, the praise was nearly universal.
Another heresy, at least from the perspective of Louis, Jansenism, proved
more difficult to contend with. Jansenism was potentially subversive because it
claimed that human institutions were fallible and so presented a challenge to
the divine origin of the monarch’s justice. One of Louis’s last acts was to pre-
vail upon the papacy to reissue its condemnation of Jansenism in the bull
Unigentitus in 1713. This drove Jansenists underground, where their doctrines
spread independently of episcopal supervision. The result was that Jansenists
began to develop concepts of freedom of conscience and religious toleration.

7
The theme of the history of the French monarchy is centralization. War forced
the kings, however, to violate or negotiate away many privileges. In the
province of Languedoc, for example, most tax money was spent on local ser-
vices. Local elites also welcomed the suppression of the Huguenots. On other
occasions, the Crown was more repressive. It imposed a head tax on the
nobility in 1695, thus eliminating one of the distinctive characteristics of the
Second Estate forever. It put such pressure on office holders for loans and
gifts that the market value of the office declined so much it never recovered.
Louis’s wars had been costly, not least because the sacrifices he demanded
made some writers criticize the king for undermining traditional notions of
kingship. For instance, theologian and writer Fénelon (1651–1715) used alle-
gory to criticize the state of the realm. His novel Télémaque followed the son
of Ulysses throughout the ancient world to analyze the problems of various
states. Like France in the 1690s, these places suffered from rulers surround-
ed by flatterers and sycophants. Better advice from more sincere councilors
would put these countries at peace with their neighbors, discourage the pro-
duction of useless luxury goods, promote agriculture, and keep taxes low.
This idealized vision of kingship implicitly criticized Louis for vanity and vain-
glory. Yet Fénelon was no revolutionary. He was calling for a return to the
principles of true monarchy.
A comparable critique emerged from the courtier and memorialist, the duc
de Saint-Simon (1675–1755). Again, this was a complaint about the degener-
ation of government under Louis XIV. Saint-Simon blamed the rise of the
ministries that had displaced the high nobility from its natural role in govern-
ment. Like Fénelon, or the rebels of the period, for that matter, Saint-Simon
saw the issue as bad advice to the king. He deplored the influence of mere
courtiers, ambitious parvenus of low birth, and of the vain and limited
Madame de Maintenon, the king’s most devoted mistress.
If the criticisms of the Sun King looked back to a better time, the complaints
also looked forward. Saint-Simon charged that the king had broken the funda-
mental laws of the royal succession and so implied there were limits on the
king’s authority. It was a position the Jansenists had already taken. The com-
plaint about women in government would have a great future in the loathing
of Madame de Pompadour and Marie-Antoinette. Comparing a real king to an
ideal standard was ultimately subversive.
Despite these difficulties, though, the age of Louis XIV was in many respects
the glorious apogee of France and of French culture and cultural influence. It
took a potent international coalition to contain Louis’s political and military
ambitions, and the French Court set the tone and established the fashion for
aristocrats all over Europe, and to some degree, for generations to come.
French adventurers, traders, and missionaries explored the interior of the
North American continent and established an empire arching from north of the
St. Lawrence, through the Great Lakes, to the mouth of the Mississippi, and
LECTURE ONE

the Gulf of Mexico, which to this day shapes the culture of Quebec and, to a
lesser degree, of Louisiana. And the France of Louis produced the tragedies
of Corneille and Racine, the comedies of Molière, and the theological and
neotheoretical works of Pascal. It was, all told, a most impressive legacy.

8

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. From what were the powers of French kings derived?


2. What moral demands did Jansenism make on its adepts?

Suggested Reading

Beik, William. Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents.
New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.

Other Books of Interest

Black, Jeremy. From Louis XIV to Napoleon: The Fate of a Great Power.
London: Routledge, 1999.
Wolf, John B. Louis XIV. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974.

9
Lecture 2:
Voltaire
(Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Roger Pearson’s Voltaire


Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom.

Voltaire was at the center of


some of the most important
issues of public policy in the eigh-
teenth century. Along with other
writers, he had a major influence
in transforming ideas on religious
toleration, and the penal codes of
his day.
He was born in 1694 as
Francois-Marie Arouet, the son of
a rich Parisian notary. As a young
man he was imprisoned in the

© Clipart.com/Musée Carnavalet, Paris


Bastille for hinting that the Regent
had an incestuous relationship
with his daughter, after which he
took the nom de plume “Voltaire.”
Just before his death in 1778, he
was feted in Paris by huge
crowds in one of the most memo- Portrait of Voltaire
rable celebrations of the century. (François-Marie Arouet, 1694–1778)
Even in death, he remained con- by Nicolas de Largillière, 1718
troversial, and the Bishop of Paris
refused him a Catholic funeral. His enemies put out the story that his corpse
was diseased and filthy. It was not until the Revolution that he was given full
recognition. He was one of the first to be buried in the Panthéon in Paris, the
lasting home of French national heroes. The events of his youth, old age, and
death epitomize both how much he was spurned and lionized over the course
of his career. Even though he was a hero to the crowds at the end, the forces
of obscurantist, bigoted religion, l’infâme, to use his phrase, were still strong
enough to marginalize him in death.
His enforced exile in England transformed him. He insulted the chevalier de
Rohan, who, refusing a duel with someone who was not his social equal, sent
his lackeys to thrash him. Voltaire was so incensed he tried to hunt Rohan
down. The police advised the young writer to leave the country. While in
England, Voltaire studied the religious and political practices of the country,
LECTURE TWO

and soaked himself in the ideas of Locke and Newton.


Voltaire was a Deist, that is, someone who believed in a God as a Creator
and First Cause but not in the Christian God who was omniscient and
omnipotent. Voltaire argued that this was the clear implication of Newtonian

10
cosmology. The Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century suggested
that the universe functioned by immutable laws sufficient unto themselves
that required no supernatural intervention to keep going. God was according-
ly the “Divine Watchmaker,” essential to create the watch and wind it up, no
more. But paradoxically, the god of the eighteenth-century philosophers was
a beneficent god, a being who created the universe for human happiness and
convenience. Natural religion celebrated the goodness of nature and toler-
ance among peoples. True religion was common to all humanity. “All sects
are different,” Voltaire wrote, “because they come from men; morality is
everywhere the same, because it comes from God.”
On the other hand, he never ceased to mock established religion. “Our reli-
gion with no contradiction is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the
most bloody that has ever infected the world.”
He also believed that religion had a social purpose. “If God did not exist, it
would be necessary to invent him” was his most famous aphorism. It showed
his distrust of the common people whom he thought were incapable of appre-
ciating sophisticated knowledge. Religion was useful to protect the social
hierarchy against disorder from below. In short, he was no democrat.
He also drew from Locke the idea that true knowledge derived from what
could be known from nature. Revealed knowledge was superstition and
claims to a universal moral truth were false. Morality derived from experience.
It varied through time and was relative to geography. Again, paradoxically,
this did not imply a complete relativization of morals, a passive tolerance of
any outrage. Voltaire condemned slavery, noble pretense, religious intoler-
ance, tyranny, censorship, Jews and Muslims on occasion, and much else.
He was also extraordinarily judgmental. He insulted his enemies by compar-
ing them with a veritable zoo of repulsive or ferocious animals and insects.
He also devoted his humor to serious subjects. In his short novel Candide
(1759), for example, he combined a totally improbable series of catastrophes
and coincidences with a reflection on optimism in human affairs. Pangloss,
Candide’s tutor, represents the German philosopher Leibniz. Whatever disas-
ter befalls the characters in the novel—massacre in war, shipwreck, earth-
quake, enslavement, the pox—Pangloss endlessly repeats that all is for the
best in the best of all possible worlds. Despite the constant suffering,
Candide does not become an anti-Pangloss/Leibniz, a pessimist, but encour-
ages his friends to stay home and cultivate their garden. The conclusion is
deliberately ambiguous, but it seems to mean that one ought to do what one
can to improve things in one’s sphere.
He was also a crusader for more humane punishment. The Italian criminol-
ogist/reformer Beccaria made a huge impression on him. Beccaria argued
that punishments should not exact revenge but deter people from committing
further crimes. Beccaria was against torture and capital punishment. Voltaire
took up the cause. He argued, “It is better to risk sparing a guilty person
than to condemn an innocent one.” He almost plagiarized Beccaria’s argu-
ments against capital punishment: “Let the punishments of criminals be use-
ful. A hanged man is good for nothing; a man condemned to public works
still serves the country, and is a living lesson.”

11
His passion for justice and his hatred of religious bigotry came together in the
Calas Affair. Jean Calas was executed by breaking on the wheel, and stran-
gling, his corpse burned and ashes scattered in Toulouse in 1762 for murder-
ing his son to prevent him, so it was said, from converting to Catholicism. In
fact, the son was probably a suicide but the family tried to cover this up to
avoid the shame and the possible financial penalties that were visited upon
family members of suicides. The elder Calas had no attorney, the trial was in
secret, and he was tortured after the verdict to obtain a confession.
When he heard of this travesty, Voltaire devoted himself to clearing the elder
Calas’s name. In pamphlets and letters, he denounced the religious bigotry of
the judges, the presumption that Protestants were in league with the foreign
enemy—the affair occurred during the Seven Years War with the English—
the lack of due process, and the torture. By 1765, Voltaire had won and
Calas was rehabilitated.
He never said, “I disagree with what you are saying but I will fight to the
death for your right to say it.” On the other hand, he did say, “The best is the
enemy of the good.” And, “It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are
punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”
LECTURE TWO

12

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. How was Voltaire transformed by his enforced exile in England?


2. What were Beccaria’s arguments on crimes and punishments?

Suggested Reading

Pearson, Roger. Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom. New York:


Bloomsbury USA, 2005.

Other Books of Interest

Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet). Candide and Other Stories. Trans. Roger


Pearson. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.
———. Philosophical Dictionary. Trans. Theodore Besterman. New York:
Penguin, 1984.

13
Lecture 3:
David Hume
(Professor Joel F. Richeimer)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Barry Stroud’s Hume.

David Hume was an eighteenth-


century Scottish philosopher. He
actually never held a position as a
professional philosopher. He was
not an academic philosopher. He
was professionally a historian.
And he wrote a classic history of
England in six volumes. He was
also a famous economist.

© Photos.com/Scottish National Portrait Gallery


But his greatest influence was as
a philosopher. When Albert
Einstein was asked who had the
greatest influence on his views,
the interviewer expected Einstein
to mention some scientist or some
experiment. Instead, Einstein said,
“David Hume.” Immanuel Kant,
who is perhaps the greatest David Hume
philosopher of the modern era, (1711–1776)
said that David Hume awoke him by Allan Ramsey, 1766
from his dogmatic slumbers.
Charles Darwin, who, of course, developed the theory of natural selection and
the theory of evolution, named David Hume as his favorite philosopher. Adam
Smith, the founder of classical economics, who worked out the economics of
the marketplace, was profoundly influenced by David Hume. The logical posi-
tivists, one of the most important philosophical movements of the twentieth
century, saw themselves as followers of David Hume. And the list goes on.
Basically, Hume was saying—and this is an oversimplification, but it is a
good place to start—don’t take your beliefs so seriously. Hume was attacking
the abuse of belief. He was attacking your confidence in your beliefs. If you
understand how your beliefs were formed, you would not take many of your
beliefs so seriously.
Hume’s philosophical point of view was undoubtedly a reaction to the
Protestant/Catholic religious wars and to the political ideologies that led up to
LECTURE THREE

the French Revolution. Hume went on to claim that irresponsibly held beliefs
led to human suffering.
Here is a story. It is not Hume’s. But it helps to understand Hume’s philoso-
phy. A feral cat routinely comes to our house. We feed it. Sometimes we feed
it moist, tasty cat food. And the cat clearly likes it. And sometimes, we feed it

14
dry, not-so-tasty cat food. And clearly the cat does not like it as much. It is
obvious to us that the cat can tell the difference. But here is the first point.
The cat can’t figure out why one day it gets tasty moist cat food and another
day it gets tasteless dry cat food. Perhaps the cat is trying to correlate its
behavior to the food. But it can never figure out why. We give it fancy cat
food when the supermarket has a sale on moist cat food. But not knowing
anything about supermarkets or sales, the cat is simply incapable of figuring
out why it gets great cat food one day and terrible the next.
Now here is a fact about you. You are, according to Hume, just like a cat.
Some things, you can’t figure out. It is simply beyond your capabilities. Call
those things—“metaphysics.” Metaphysics is supposedly knowledge that goes
beyond human experience. Hume claims there is no such knowledge. Note
Hume is not saying there are no such truths. He is saying there is no such
knowledge. You can’t know such things. There is a truth why the feral cat gets
tasty food one day and tasteless food the next. But the cat can’t know why.
Hume’s core philosophical claim is that naturalism is true. Naturalism is the
claim that there is a profound continuity between us and animals. We are ani-
mals. This is obviously contrary to many religious and metaphysical views,
which emphasize the discontinuity between humans and animals. Religious
thinkers often say that humans have souls and animals don’t. Metaphysical
thinkers often say that humans have reason and animals don’t.
That leads us to Hume’s second thesis. According to Hume, naturalism
leads to empiricism. Empiricism is the view that all knowledge comes from
experience. So Hume thinks that as animals we are restricted to what our
senses tell us. In other words, empiricism is true.
Hume says you can see that all of your ideas come from experience by look-
ing at what is called “Hume’s microscope.” Hume’s microscope is a metaphor
for your ability to introspect each of your ideas. If you look at each of your
ideas, you will see that it is based on a bit of experience. So my idea of “blue”
is based on my experience of blue. And if I had no color experience, then I
would not have any color ideas. By experience, Hume means sensory experi-
ence—what I can taste, touch, see, feel, or smell. This empiricist thesis even
applies to ideas of imaginary things. If you take Hume’s microscope and look
at an imaginary creature, let’s say, Pegasus (the flying horse)—you will see
that it is composed of the experience of horse and wings, which you com-
bined. People have the idea that imagination is free. You can imagine any-
thing you want. But according to Hume and empiricism, your imagination is
bound to your senses.
This is how Hume puts it:
Nothing at first view may seem so unbounded than the thought of man
. . . we shall find upon a nearer examination, that is really confined
within very narrow limits, and that all of this creative power of the mind
amounts to no more than the faculty of compounding, transposing,
augmenting, or diminishing the materials afforded us by our senses
and experience.1

1. Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, p. 64. 3rd printing. New York:
Open Court Publishing, 1988.

15
But note while every idea comes from experience, not every word comes
from experience. I can make up a word, let’s say, “ooga.” Now I can examine
that word with Hume’s microscope and lo and behold, there is no experience
behind it. Of course, I just made up that word. But if I repeat “ooga” enough
times and convince my friends to start using it, you might begin to think it
really means something. Hume accused religious figures and metaphysicians
of doing just that.
This introduces “Hume’s razor.” You take Hume’s microscope, you introspect
your ideas. If something is not based on experience, then you take Hume’s
razor and cut out what is not based on experience. Hume wants to purify our
thoughts from anything not based on experience.
Here is an example. Isaac Newton based his theory of physics on the idea
that space is absolute. Space, for Newton, is a giant container. Since space
is a container, then there would be difference, for Newton, between remaining
at rest relative to space or moving in a straight line at a constant velocity. Of
course, there would be a difference, in one case you are moving and in the
other case you are not.
Newton knew however that there is no empirical difference, no observational
difference between remaining motionless and moving in a straight line at a
constant velocity. So if you put a glass of water on your dashboard of your
car, and drive in a straight line at a constant velocity, the water will not move.
It would be as if the water is not moving.
Einstein read Hume. He applied Hume’s microscope to Newton’s notion of
absolute space, that space is a container. And he saw that Newton’s absolute
space was not based on experience. So Einstein used Hume’s razor and cut
it out. He then rewrote Newton’s physics without the metaphysics of absolute
space. And he produced the Special Theory of Relativity.
So Hume’s naturalism leads to empiricism and Hume’s empiricism leads to
minimalism—shaving off the metaphysical crud of our beliefs.
I want to look at three other of his attacks before we look at his positive
views: Hume’s attacks on necessity, miracles, and reason.
Necessity is the metaphysical claim that some things have to be. They
can’t be otherwise. When I say something is necessary, I am saying that it
is absolute.
Hume claims that this is a psychological illusion. We live in a contingent
world. Things can be otherwise. Contingency goes all of the way down.
Nothing is necessary.
It is perhaps easy to see what Hume is talking about when you consider a
classic investment scam. You get a list of one thousand wealthy people, per-
haps from a membership list from a country club or similar place. You write
each of them a letter saying that you have an investment firm and to demon-
LECTURE THREE

strate your firm’s skills, you will give them some free investment advice. To
five hundred of the one thousand people, you write that your firm predicts that
GM stock will go up May 1. And to the other five hundred of the one thou-
sand people, you write that your firm predicts that GM stock will go down on
May 1. Let’s say, GM stock goes down on May 1. Then you write letters only
to the people to whom you gave the correct prediction that GM stock will go

16
down. And to two hundred fifty of those five hundred people, you write, we
correctly predicted that GM stock would go down on May 1; we now predict
that Boeing stock will go up May 15. And to the other two hundred fifty of the
five hundred people, you write, we correctly predicted that GM stock would
go down, and now we predict that Boeing stock will go down on May 15. Let’s
say, Boeing stock goes up. So again you write a letter only to those to whom
you sent a correct prediction. You write, we were right about the GM stock
going down, we were right about the Boeing stock going up, and now we will
give you a final prediction. Of the remaining two hundred fifty people who
received only correct predictions, you send one hundred twenty-five of them
the prediction that Kraft stock will go down on June 1 and to the other one
hundred twenty-five of them you predict that Kraft stock will go up June 1.
Let’s say it goes up. Now you write a letter to those one hundred twenty-five
people who received the three correct predictions. We gave you three correct
predictions. We will continue to send you our predictions for fifteen thousand
dollars. This is a classic scam.
The scam works because from the vantage point of the letter receiver, one
cannot see the contingency of the situation. It is as if there is some sort of
necessity between the newsletter and the predictions. But there is none.
There is no connection at all. The correct predictions are pure chance. But all
the final receivers of letters see are the successes. They don’t see the fail-
ures. And they don’t see the situation.
This line of argument had tremendous influence on the thinking of both
Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection and Adam Smith and his
theory of the market place. When you look at a plant or an animal, you don’t
see all of the plants or animals that did not survive or all of the possible
plants and animals. All you see are the successes. So it looks as if things
had to be the way they are. But actually, every possibility is being tested. And
we are surrounded by unseen failures.
Here is another example of how contingency runs all the way down. This
story might not be true. But it is often repeated. As you know, the space shut-
tle needs a back-up landing field, in case there is bad weather in Florida. It is
in Texas. So the shuttle designers had to find a way to transport the shuttle
from Texas to Florida. They use in part the rail system. So the limitations of
the American rail system set up constraints on the design of the shuttle. The
shuttle design had to be such that it could be taken apart in such a way to fit
on American trains. So the gauge of the track of American trains created an
engineering constraint for the design of the shuttle. What determined the
gauge of American trains? It turns out that the United States uses the same
train gauge as Britain. And then the question is, Why does Britain use that
gauge? Apparently the gauge of the trains was designed around the size of
carriages in England. Carriage builders designed the first railroad cars. But
why were carriages designed that way? The axle length of carriages had to
be the same size as the ruts in the dirt roads, the grooves in the roads. Axles
were made of wood. One drove one’s carriage in such a way that each wheel
would fit in a rut. If one wheel was in a groove, the rut, and the other was not,
there was a danger that the wooden axle would break. But what determined
the width of the ruts? Apparently, when the Romans invaded England under
Julius Caesar, they created the original ruts. The Roman chariots made the

17
original ruts that simply got reinforced by further use. By what determined the
distance between the wheels of the Roman chariots? The Roman chariots
were designed to be maneuverable during battle and they were designed
around the size of the particular type of horse that the Romans favored. So it
was the size of the hindquarters of the Roman horses that constrained the
design of the space shuttle.
Contingency goes all of the way down. We live in a contingent world.
Remember Hume was a professional historian. He wrote what was for
decades the standard history of England.
Here is another example, a quicker one: if your parents had sex a moment
earlier or later, you would not be here. Your existence is contingent on
many variables.
The contingency of our lives is hard to grasp.
Hume’s attack on necessity is one part of his attack on metaphysics. Here is
another example of Hume’s attack on metaphysics. Hume attacked miracles.
Clearly miracles were central to many religions. Miracles are a violation of the
law of nature, otherwise they would not be miracles. But why do we believe in
the laws of nature? We believe in the laws of nature because we have
repeated experience that they are true. So Hume asks, what is more likely—
the law of nature being violated or the person who witnessed the miracle
being deceived or lying? In every case, Hume argues, it is more likely, the
miracle did not happen. Here is how Hume puts it:
When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I
immediately consider . . . whether it is more probable, that this person
should either deceive or be deceived or that the fact related should
really have happened. I weigh one miracle against the other . . . and
always reject the greater miracle.2
So, according to Hume, you have no reason to believe in miracles. Hume is
not saying that miracles can’t happen. He is not making a metaphysical
claim. He is saying that you cannot know. Remember you are like the cat.
There is a reason why I sometimes buy fancy cat food and why I sometimes
buy tasteless cat food, but the cat can’t figure it out.
Hume has a famous ending to his classic work An Enquiry Concerning
Human Understanding, where he totally repudiates metaphysics. He writes:
When we run over libraries persuaded of these principles, what havoc
must we make? If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school
metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, does it contain any abstract
reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any
experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No.
Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry
and illusion.3
LECTURE THREE

Hume wants to eliminate metaphysical beliefs from our lives.

2. Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, p. 149. 3rd printing. New York:
Open Court Publishing, 1988.
3. Ibid, p. 195.

18
Hume, of course, had many opponents. Religious thinkers and rationalist
philosophers, such as Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, all attacked empiri-
cism. They argued that we have another source of knowledge besides experi-
ence—if religious, they said it was revelation, if rationalist, they said it was
reason. Let’s focus on the claim that we can transcend our experience with
reason, that we are not bound to our experience, that we can discover eternal
and necessary truths, that is to say, metaphysical truths.
Hume denied this. He had two broad attacks on the claim that reason had
this power.
The first was a set of technical arguments that showed that reason cannot
tell us about the world. Reason can only tell us how ideas are related to
each other.
The second is that even if reason could tell us about the world, we are not
governed by reason. We are animals, after all. This is Hume’s naturalism. I
am going to focus on this second argument, that reason is ineffective. It is not
really a force in our lives. Hume probably overstated his position when he
said: “Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions”—which seems
to be saying reason is not only a minor player in our lives, but it should be a
minor player. We shouldn’t trust reason. That might be too strong—given
Hume’s views.
But certainly, he thinks this—we overestimate how rational we are. We don’t
realize that we are animals.
But how can Hume show this? If Hume tries to show this by using a rea-
soned argument and we are convinced, then aren’t we governed by reason?
His argument would contradict itself. How can Hume use a reasoned argu-
ment to show that reason does not govern us?
Hume is no dummy. He understood this. He shows that you are forced to
believe in certain things—in spite of reason. And this introduces his positive
theory that we are governed by natural instincts. Here is an example.
Descartes raises the possibility that everything I see and experience is a
product of an evil demon. I am being systematically fooled. Reason can suc-
cessfully raise these skeptical doubts. But all I would have to do, to use
Hume’s example, is play a game of billiards. And all of these metaphysical
worries vanish. They would no longer seem real. Hume writes:
But all of [these philosophical arguments] . . . in reality admit of no
answer and produce no conviction. Their only effect is to cause that
momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion.4
And Hume elsewhere writes,
Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any
abstract reasoning whatsoever.5
Hume’s philosophy is not really a theoretical philosophy at all, but it is actually
a way of life. Religious and metaphysical beliefs, for Hume, are unnatural.

4. Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. p. 186. 3rd printing. New York:
Open Court Publishing, 1988.
5. Ibid, p. 85.

19
Hume is recommending, and lived, a modest life with modest and minimal
beliefs—a life governed by one’s natural instincts, the cultivation of friend-
ships, and the suppression of desires that go beyond natural needs. It is a life
of moderation.
Even though Hume was not a Christian and was anti-religious, he was called
St. Hume in his native Scotland—because of his life of moderation and his
personal demeanor.
Hume died in 1776 of cancer. And even in death, he became for many a
model of cheerful acceptance of the natural order.
LECTURE THREE

20

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. How was Hume’s philosophical point of view a reaction to the Protestant/


Catholic religious wars and the political ideologies leading up to the
French Revolution?
2. What were Hume’s attacks on necessity, miracles, and reason?

Suggested Reading

Stroud, Barry. Hume. London: Routledge, 1985.

Other Books of Interest

Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. 3rd printing.


New York: Open Court, 1988.
———. Dialogues and Natural History of Religion. Ed. J.C.A. Gaskin. New
York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1999.

21
Lecture 4:
Immanuel Kant
(Professor Joel F. Richeimer)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Roger Scruton’s Kant: A Very
Short Introduction.

Kant is considered to be the greatest


philosopher of the modern era. By the
modern era, we mean since about
1500. The philosophy of Kant is simply
too complicated to summarize. It is too
deep. So this summary will be nasty,
brutish, and short.
A little cartoon history will provide
some stage setting to help locate Kant’s
philosophy. The most important event in
the last five hundred years is the scien-
tific revolution. Science seems to be dis-
covering that we are not free, that we
have no free will. Our behavior is deter-
mined by society or genetics or the

© COREL
environment or what have you. For
instance, science seems to be saying: Immanuel Kant
all of your thoughts occur in your brain. (1724–1804)
Your brain is a biochemical machine Unknown artist, ca. 1770s
that obeys the deterministic laws of bio-
chemistry. So one has to conclude that your thoughts are determined by
those laws. The periodic table determines your psychology.
If that is true, then, of course, you are not really responsible for your actions.
Morality would be just an illusion. Our self-understanding, who we think we
are, is an illusion. We would be robots who won’t admit that we were robots.
This move to determinism is just one of the major changes that science
seems to be making. For instance, color seems to be an illusion. Really all
that there is is electromagnetic waves; the color is in our head. There is
under this view no real color in the world. Likewise, the solidity of this table is
an illusion. The table is mostly space. And the list goes on. It seems that sci-
ence is telling us: face the facts. We are just matter in a world of oozing mat-
ter. Most of what we think is wrong. We are not really who we think we are.
Confronted with this, there are two common reactions. One is to accept sci-
ence and accept that much of life is illusory. The other seems to be to reject
LECTURE FOUR

science or to come up with an alternative, whether it is a New Age philosophy


or Creationism or whatever.
Kant denies that we are confronted with that choice. Kant argues: first, sci-
ence is discovering deep truths about the world and second, science cannot
have those conclusions about morality and free will.

22
How does Kant get there? To answer that question it will be easiest for us to
divide Kant into four separate projects, though he himself did not do this.
Afterwards, we will try to combine them.
Project #1
Kant’s first project is asking what are the minimal necessary conditions for
having an experience, for having a thought?
First thing, it should be obvious not everything has experience or has
thoughts. This podium has no thoughts. This chair has no experience. Not
everything has experience or thoughts. A computer metaphor might help to
understand what Kant is up to here. Think of this as an engineering problem.
When personal computers first came out, like the Commodore 64, they built
into the hardware of the computer a lot of software, for instance, the operat-
ing system. Then someone realized that is not such a good idea. Every time
you want to update the operating system, you would have to throw away the
computer. So they decided not to build the operating system into the comput-
er. But that course of action raises the engineering question: what is the least
amount of software that you have to build into a computer to make it work? A
computer cannot be a blank slate. If it was, it would not be able to read the
disks or download information. There must be some built-in minimum struc-
ture to make a computer work. So empiricism is wrong. The idea that all
knowledge comes from experience can’t be right. Something innate has to
read the experience and make sense of it.
So the first project for Kant is to find out the minimal necessary conditions
for having an experience. What is the minimum needed? Now this is a long
story. But here is a short version. It is, in part, space and time. To experi-
ence a physical object, you must experience it as having temporal and
spatial properties.
To understand this—consider mathematics. There are three interesting facts
about mathematics. First, mathematicians don’t get dirty. Biologists get dirty,
chemists get dirty, but mathematicians don’t. They don’t need goggles and
they don’t need lab coats. Second, they discover eternal truths. They discov-
er, for instance, that for a right triangle in Euclidean space, the square of the
hypotenuse equals the square of the sides (that is, c2 = a2 + b2). Or they dis-
cover that there are an infinite number of prime numbers. Third, mathematics
applies to everything. And I mean everything. There is a mathematics of pine
cones, lottery winning, jet engine design, you name it.
Those are the obvious facts of mathematics. Here is one that is not so obvi-
ous. According to Kant, we treat mathematics differently than the way we
treat empirical claims. Math, according to Kant, does not come from experi-
ence; it is part of that innate structure that is prior to experience, that makes
experience possible.
Consider how we treat empirical claims differently than mathematical claims.
Take for instance, the claim that everyone listening to this at this moment has
less than five hundred dollars on them in cash. That could be true. But even if
true, we know how it could be wrong. We allow that claim to be violated. And
we would not be surprised if it were not true.
But note—we don’t think that way about mathematics. We do not allow its
claims to be violated. Take the simplest example: 1 + 1 = 2. There are plenty
23
of cases where that seems simply wrong, but we ignore those cases. We
don’t count them. We don’t treat them as violations of the rule. For instance,
one quart of orange juice and one quart of milk will get you two quarts of deli-
cious orange juice and milk. But one quart of orange juice and one quart of
gin does not give you two quarts of orange juice and gin. You get less. Try
it—if you don’t believe me. But no one would consider that a violation of 1 + 1
= 2. No one sees that as disproving 1 + 1 = 2. We would say instead that that
case is irrelevant. It is besides the point.
Or consider adding one drop of water to one drop of water. What do you
get? Well, you get one drop of water. Have I disproved 1 + 1 = 2? Or con-
sider what happens when your checkbook does not balance. You might
blame the bank. You might blame yourself. But you don’t blame mathemat-
ics. We treat mathematics as different from normal empirical claims. Kant
thinks he knows why. They are part of the minimal structure that makes
experience possible.
When a rule gets violated—we have two possible kinds of responses. You
can say the rule is wrong (and give the rule up). So if I say everyone here
has less than one hundred dollars on them and someone has more. I would
have to give up that rule. Or—when the rule seems wrong, I can say you mis-
applied the rule. According to Kant, for math we do the latter. We don’t allow
anything to violate mathematics. Because, according to Kant, mathematics is
not about the world. It is about us. It is that innate structure.
That explains why mathematicians don’t get dirty when doing mathematics.
They are not doing research about the world in the way that, for instance,
chemists are. And that explains how mathematicians can be discovering eter-
nal truths. They are discovering the structure of all possible experience. And
that explains why mathematics always applies, wherever we look, because it
makes looking possible. According to Kant, mathematics is part of the cogni-
tive autobiography of rational beings.
Arithmetic, according to Kant, is the formalization of our intuition of time.
Geometry, according to Kant, is the formalization of our intuition of space.
Space and time are part of that minimal necessary structure necessary to
have any experience at all.
Here is how Kant put the situation. Kant, I should warn you, is not a great
writer. But these passages are some of his clearest:
We should then be proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus . . .
Failing satisfactory progress in explaining the movements of heavenly
bodies on the supposition that they revolved around the spectator, he
tried whether he might not have better success if he had made the
spectator to revolve and the stars to remain at rest. A similar experi-
ment can be tried in metaphysics, as regards to the intuition of objects.
If intuition must conform to the constitution of objects, I do not see how
we could know anything of the latter a priori, but if the object . . . must
LECTURE FOUR

conform to the constitution of our faculty of intuition, I have no difficulty


in conceiving such a possibility . . . We can know a priori of things only
what ourselves put into them.1
1. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 22–23. 2nd rev. ed. Trans. Kemp Smith. London:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

24
Kant is saying we cannot make sense of the necessity and universality of
mathematics if we had to discover them. All we would discover is that the tri-
angles we have so far examined have interior angles of 180 degrees. We
would have no reason to believe that all triangles have interior angles of 180
degrees. But it makes sense that we can discover the necessity and univer-
sality of mathematics—if we are the ones that put the necessity and univer-
sality into mathematics.
Project #2
Kant has another project. He is not only trying to discover the minimal condi-
tions for having an experience, but he is also, according to Kant, trying to dis-
cover the maximal conditions. He is trying to figure what you cannot have an
experience of.
Now for Kant, that is the same project. Identifying the minimal conditions is
the same as identifying the maximal conditions. But we can consider them
as different.
The first project, in effect, is a criticism of the empiricism. It is a criticism of
the theory that we are blank slates. The second project is a critique of meta-
physics of the rationalist tradition, of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and
Malebranche. They attempted according to Kant to answer questions that
can’t be answered.
This is the same project because when you establish minimal conditions to
thought you are also establishing what one can’t think about.
To understand this, it is necessary to see that English (or for that matter any
language) allows you to say things that have no meaning, but which do not
violate the rules of the language. For instance, I can say I am thinking right
now of a round square (in Euclidean space). That does not violate the rules
of grammar; but Kant wants to argue it violates the rules of thought. There is
no such thought. It is just words.
Or for instance, it makes sense to say that right now it is noon in New York
City, and if so, it is 9 AM in Los Angeles. That makes sense given our rules of
time. But what if I asked what time it is right now on the moon? Is it 10 AM or
1 PM? And the answer is that there is no answer. There are rules for applying
a concept like “what time it is” to Los Angeles or New York, but given that
system, there is no rule for determining what time it is on the moon.
Or for instance, it makes sense to ask whether Michigan is north of Ohio. It
makes no sense to ask what is north of the North Pole. If you ask what is
north of the North Pole, you are not violating rules of English grammar. You
are violating the rules of thought.
Kant is arguing that there are limits to thoughts. One can misuse concepts.
One can misapply concepts. Once one sees that there are rules for applying
concepts, rules for making sense, then one sees it is possible to violate the
rules and say nothing.
That is why it makes no sense to say that since one quart of orange juice
and one quart of gin equals less than two quarts of orange juice and gin, then
1 + 1 = 2 is false.
That brings us to Kant’s third project.

25
Project #3
Kant’s third project provides an analysis for our tendency to go beyond the
limits of possible thought. He is critical of it. But he thinks it is natural.
Basically, his argument comes down to this: if you give a kid a hammer, he
thinks everything is a nail. If you give a person the ability to think, he thinks
everything is thinkable. Kant’s point is of course that not everything is think-
able. You can think of this tendency as the “imperialism of reason.” Reason
does not know when to stop.
Thinking for Kant has a structure. Basically, think of thinking as a toolbox.
There are implicit rules for using tools. For instance, a hammer presupposes
a rule that a nail is not made of glass. When you are using a hammer, you
are assuming that the hammer will not shatter the nail. When you use a ham-
mer, you are making assumptions about the world. Likewise, the same is true
with thoughts, with thinking. Thinking is not neutral. It has a point of view. It
has rules for use. And consequently it can be abused.
Kant writes at the very beginning of the Critique of Pure Reason,
his masterpiece,
Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowl-
edge it is burdened with questions which, as prescribed by the very
nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcend-
ing all of its powers, it is also not able to answer.2
That brings us to Kant’s fourth project.
Project #4
Kant has a bit of jargon here. He calls this project “transcendental idealism.”
And this brings all of the projects together.
To understand this you first have to make a distinction between facts and
rights. It is a distinction in our legal system. Something might be a fact, but it
does not make it right. There is a difference between a fact and it being right.
Let’s go back to the 1 + 1 = 2 example. It is fact—according to Kant—that we
don’t allow anything to violate 1 + 1 = 2. Every possible counterexample we
treat as irrelevant. We say it does not apply. But note—and this is Kant’s
point—that does not show that it is right. Just because we do that does not
mean what we are doing is right.
Another way of making the same point is that just because it is innate does
not mean it is true. Project #1 shows that the minimal structure is innate. But
maybe it is innate and false.
This is where Project #2 kicks in. There is no such possible thought. The
very idea that it can be innate and false is not a possible thought.
The minimal conditions for a thought are true not because they are justified
or because they have a foundation, no, because there is no alternative.
LECTURE FOUR

This is what Kant is doing. First, Kant is showing us that we just don’t
see the world as is. Rather, our thoughts have a built-in structure, a built-in

2. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. p. 7. 2nd rev. ed. Trans. Kemp Smith. London:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

26
perspective, a built-in metaphysics, built-in rules (think about the hammer
and its assumptions). But if that structure is a necessary condition for think-
ing, then there is no place to stand to say that structure is wrong.
Another way of saying the same thing, there are some thoughts you cannot
get outside of. For instance, take the thought that I am thinking now. There is
no outside to that thought. It cannot be doubted. It cannot be doubted
because any attempt to doubt it is thinking. There is no outside to the thought
that “I am thinking right now.”
Or, for instance, I cannot make sense of the claim that reason can be wrong,
because I would have to use reason to criticize reason. Again, there is no
outside. There is no alternative.
Kant is not saying that the minimal structure to thought is right because it is
true. No, what is true and right depends on the structure of thought.
Reason, for instance, has authority, not because it has some justification,
but because it is a kind of thought from which there is no appeal beyond
itself. Its validity is unconditional because it is necessarily employed by any
challenge to it.
Kant is not saying that there is some truth out there and we can’t figure it
out. That is what the skeptic says. And Kant is not a skeptic.
Kant is drawing the limits of thoughts by showing that there is nothing out
there. As Kant puts it—transcendental idealism becomes empirical realism.
Understanding how thoughts work shows that the ordinary way of thinking is
basically right, that is, unavoidable.
Take the example from the beginning of the lecture. Your thoughts occur in
your brain. Your brain is a biochemical machine. Biochemical machines oper-
ate by deterministic laws. Thus, you are not free.
Kant argues that is not a thought; it is not a possible thought. It is self-refuting.
If it were true, you would have no reason to trust your thoughts, including
that one. You can say your thoughts are determined by deterministic laws of
biology, but you cannot truly believe it. Just like you can say that you are
going north of North Pole. You can say it, but that means nothing. You can
say your thoughts are controlled by deterministic laws, but then they would
be no such thoughts there. You can’t really believe it. Because if it were true,
you would have no thoughts, including that one.
Or to put it differently, if you could get yourself to believe it, you would be
committing “cognitive suicide”—you would have left us.
Kant is attacking a picture of how we think we are in the world. You might
think that science can explain morality or whether we are free. But that is
confused, according to Kant. To do science presupposes that you are free.
To do science, scientists have to distinguish between good evidence and bad
evidence, between good arguments and bad arguments. Science presuppos-
es that you are responsible for your thoughts, that your thoughts follow your
reasons, that you are a person, and that your thoughts follow from the evi-
dence and not just the by-products of chemical reactions. At bottom, these
are conditions for thinking that make science possible.

27
But Kant is not saying you are free. As Kant puts it in his Groundwork,
Freedom . . . is only an idea of reason whose objective reality is itself
questionable . . .3
You can always ask questions whether you have free will. But he adds,
The concept of an intelligible world is thus only a point of view which
reason sees itself compelled to take . . .4
Kant is not saying you are free, but you must presuppose you are free.
There is little doubt that the most important philosopher of the modern era is
Kant. Almost all of modern philosophy can be traced back to ancient thinkers.
They modernize the ancients and transformed them. But that is not true with
Kant. Kant was truly a revolutionary thinker, a truly original thinker, who creat-
ed a philosophy that influenced all of modern thought.
LECTURE FOUR

3. Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals, pp. 63–79. Ed. Lara Denis. New
Haven: Yale University Press/Broadview Press, 2005.
4. Ibid, p. 56, and pp. 67–73.

28

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. What are the minimal necessary conditions for having an experience?


2. How is it possible to go beyond the limits of thought?

Suggested Reading

Scruton, Roger. Kant: A Very Short Introduction. Rev. ed. Oxford University
Press, USA, 2001.

Other Books of Interest

Cassirer, Ernst. Kant’s Life and Thought. Trans. James Harden. New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1983.
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. 2nd rev. ed. Trans. Kemp Smith.
London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
———. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Ed. Lara Denis. New
Haven: Yale University Press/Broadview Press, 2005.*
*Professor Richeimer recommends reading Section 3 and then Sections 1 and 2 of Groundwork in
that order to obtain the best understanding of this work.

29
Lecture 5:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
(Professor Fred E. Baumann)

The Suggested Readings for this lecture are Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s


Rousseau: “The Discourses” and Other Early Political Writings and
Rousseau: “The Social Contract” and Other Later Political Writings
(edited and translated by Victor Gourevitch).

Introduction
Much of the intellectual furniture
in our heads was built by Rous-
seau—even pieces that don’t
seem to belong together. Even on
his own terms he seems an inex-
plicably diverse and even contra-
dictory thinker. How can the
philosopher of The Second
Discourse, who sees natural man
as a kind of gentle, solitary ape,
be squared with the author of The
Social Contract, who speaks of
“forcing men to be free”? In fact,
what unites all the Rousseaus is
the common problem to which
each provides a partial answer.
The Common Problem

© COREL
Rousseau lived at the height of
the Enlightenment. Superstition Jean-Jacques Rousseau
was to be replaced by reason, (1712–1778)
feudalism with, first, the rational by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1753
centralized state and then by the
improved Lockean liberal model. Warriors, saints, and peasants were to
become burghers. This meant that private life, and above all economic life,
was made paramount. We were understood as naturally individual and isolat-
ed. Higher claims were debunked. The vista of a just and happy world had its
own nobility, but it ultimately seemed to celebrate the world of the “industri-
ous and rational,” that is, of hard-working producers and smart consumers.
They were free to pursue happiness. But would they find it?
The Statement of the Problem
Rousseau, who had left the French Swiss city of Geneva early and had
enjoyed a lively, checkered, and unsuccessful career in France and Italy,
LECTURE FIVE

made a name for himself with his Discourse on the Arts and Sciences, which
turned the self-satisfaction of the Enlightenment inside out. The Second
Discourse, on the origins of inequality, deepened the message. Were those
clever modern men, who knew how to live soft lives by using others and letting

30
themselves be used, really the superiors of their simpler and nobler ances-
tors? Was the life of the anxious, self-, and image-conscious bourgeois, who is
nothing in himself but his desires and fears, really the species’ crowning
achievement? If not, how could we regain our humanity?
Rousseau’s Answers
Rousseau developed one answer in romantic tales, like the New Heloise, in
which erotic feelings are sublimated into moral self-overcoming. Our deepest
longings are stirred up to remind us of who we genuinely are. Another
appears in Émile, where an all-wise and omnipresent tutor instructs an ordi-
nary young man so that he becomes able to live an uncorrupted life within a
corrupt society. Again, the isolation of the Hobbesian individual is combated
through love, here issuing in the joys of domesticity. A third appears in The
Social Contract, which tries to form a unified quasi-individual out of many.
Finally, the Reveries explore what happiness could be for someone like
Rousseau himself, that is, for a philosopher.
The Second Discourse
Rousseau retells the familiar story of solitary natural men in the state of
nature, but with a twist. These are no longer Locke’s Englishmen without
clothes, longing to get back to London and sell something, but real natural
men (that is, apes, indeed, perhaps orangutans). Lacking reason and speech,
they have simple needs and satisfy them simply. But they are apes who are
not limited by instinct, who suffer from “perfectibility,” the power to adapt, out
of which even, somehow, speech and reason emerge. As they do, men
become social, for practical reasons, without ever ceasing to be profoundly
individual. Now their desires become infinite and their treatment of each other
becomes ever more despotic and slavish. Simple self-love is replaced with
vanity, comparative esteem. We are largely alienated from our nature but
remain what we are just enough to be miserable. Rousseau’s story is not
meant as anthropology. I think it is meant as a way of bringing to mind the
mute inner self that is concealed by all the talk and attitudinizing required in
modern society. The last part of the Discourse shows how we have reached
the world that Locke and Hobbes tell us about and seems to side, at least
provisionally, with Lockean politics, without however, much optimism.
The Social Contract
If human beings today are yoked together by necessity but still engaged in a
kind of conflict that goes so deep as to challenge their own identities, perhaps
the solution is to make them into one person. This is done by a quasi-
Hobbesian social contract (“quasi” because thoroughly democratic). All rights
are given up to everybody else. The new collective person has a new “gener-
al” collective will, each individual seeking not his own advantage but the col-
lective good. But in order to make this drastic theoretical move seem even
somewhat plausible in practice, the rest of the book reveals both the condi-
tions for and the limits of the general will. The overall effect is like the disap-
pearance of the Cheshire cat; only the smile remains.
First, we discover that people cannot be expected to will generally where
their interests are involved. So “government” is necessary to deal with most

31
actual rule-making and enforcing. This government, however, is conceived of
as merely the executive; the true laws are those very general proclamations
of the general will. Government, having its own corporate personality and its
own collective will, eats away at the society’s own sovereign will. Then a wise
“legislator” is needed to teach the people the need for and the ways of the
new collective society. And only a few peoples, like the Corsicans, are still fit
for such a society. So what are the odds? In addition, slavery seems to be
necessary to provide the leisure for the free citizens to assemble, and only
small states where everyone can gather could manage this, in a world of
great nation-states. Rousseau ends the book by admitting he has no answer
to that problem.
Rousseau’s Real Project
I doubt very much that the political project of the Social Contract is meant
entirely seriously. It is a story, rather like that of natural man, whose purpose
is to remind us that we do not need to be slaves to our reason-inflated
desires. What makes the contract work is what Rousseau calls “moral free-
dom,” the capacity to say no to one’s immediate desires. This is based ulti-
mately not on the classical Socratic model of reason ruling the desires, but on
the deepest feelings of the self itself, which was better off when we were nat-
urally limited but which now requires the aid of conscious, moral limitation.
The real project I take to be the familiar task of much of nineteenth-century
European culture, the ennoblement of the bourgeoisie through art, culture,
and above all the cultivation of sincere, deep, and noble feelings.
LECTURE FIVE

32

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. How were erotic feelings treated in the New Heloise?


2. What are the problems associated with ensuring the general will?

Suggested Reading

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Rousseau: “The Discourses” and Other Early


Political Writings. Ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1997.
———. Rousseau: “The Social Contract” and Other Later Political Writings.
Ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997.

Other Books of Interest

Damrosch, Leo. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius. Boston:


Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

33
Lecture 6:
Adam Smith
(Professor Fred E. Baumann)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Adam Smith’s The Wealth
of Nations.

Introduction
The Scottish Enlightenment
philosopher Adam Smith is best
known to us as the theorist of
what later came to be called “cap-
italism.” In fact, he was far more
than an economist, as his Theory
of Moral Sentiments demon-
strates, though we will focus on
The Wealth of Nations, published
in 1776. In political economy,
however, he is best understood
as extending Lockean views
beyond Locke himself in liberating
economic life from the rule of poli-
tics and the state. In Smith’s day,
“mercantilism” was the standard
teaching. Even Locke largely

© COREL
accepted it. Its referent was the
modern top-down centralized
Adam Smith
state, which saw in trade an (1723–1790)
opportunity for increased political Unknown artist engraving, ca. 1780s
strength. A favorable balance of
trade was sought, sometimes in
outright “bullionist,” that is, gold or silver, form essentially to hire those early
modern armies that wouldn’t fight without pay, to conquer other states’
provinces and colonies and thus to add to the nation’s wealth. As foolish as
Smith makes mercantilism sound, it is worth remembering that, for instance,
Prussia did quite well with it.
The Lockean Basis
Locke, like Hobbes, teaches that human beings are above all concerned with
survival and that, of the two paths that seek to ensure it, the peaceful one of
reciprocal relations governed by law is better than war and conquest. Smith’s
project assumes the truth of that view. Where Locke tells us that God gave the
LECTURE SIX

world to the “industrious and rational,” Smith goes so far as to distinguish man
from the animals because of his “trucking” (trading) disposition. “Nobody ever
saw one animal . . . signify to another this is mine, that yours.” And Smith
shares Locke’s view of the essentially individual and self-interested character

34
of human beings. Thus, we address ourselves to others in trade “not to their
humanity but to their self love.”
The Economic Argument
The most fundamental economic claim Smith makes also derives from
Locke, namely the basis of all value in human labor, which emerges from the
human situation described by Locke—the need to root, hog, or die in a hostile
and uncaring nature. It follows that the more specialized and repetitive labor
can be made, the more efficient it is, and that the more it can be allotted to
fast and specialized machines, the more wealth there will be at the relatively
lowest cost. Here the story of the last few centuries bears him out, with the
rise of cities, of the textile and other industries, of the putting-out system and
finally, of the first industrial factories. Smith adds to this a theory of relative
efficiency through prices. At the root of prices in a market unconstrained by
political considerations is the relation of supply and demand, that is, how
much there is and how much the people who can afford it want it. The “natur-
al price” is not natural, but it is the price around which the market, under basi-
cally common, continuing conditions, fluctuates. That price reflects, rather
democratically, not what people ought to want, that is, what priests, philoso-
phers, and the food police think is good for them, but what they really want.
And for just that reason it provides the most efficient allocation of resources
possible. The implications of this for government policy are pretty clear:
hands off! The desire, say, to protect farmers or unskilled workers by fixing
prices directly or indirectly, actually harms the common good and ultimately
even the intended beneficiaries. The same holds even for international trade.
The effort to achieve a “favorable balance of trade” is folly. Thus Milton
Friedman, a loyal Smithian, once asked why we were concerned that the
Japanese were sending us so many television sets and getting pieces of
printed paper in return. The doctrine of comparative advantage, illustrated by
the folly of trying to make good wine in Scotland and good whisky in France,
again ensures that free trade provides the best of everything at the lowest
prices to everyone involved. To this the “mercantilists” (or indeed earlier
philosophers) might object that this teaching is unpolitical for two reasons:
first, that it misses what can be gained by conquest as opposed to trade and
second, that the efficiency of markets may not be the highest political good;
for example, we might want to preserve a social class like the small farmer
for reasons of morale or help the unskilled worker for reasons of morality.
The implicit answer to the first objection was already given by Locke: the
nation that releases the economic energies of its people “will soon be too
strong for its neighbours.” To the second I think Smith would concede some-
thing in principle, but as we shall see, be very skeptical of in practice.
Implications of the Economic Argument
This further emancipation of the private against the public is the basis of
much contemporary libertarianism. It shares with it also a deep and highly
democratic skepticism against the claims of rulers, “the greatest spendthrifts of
society,” to benefit the common good. Smith is scathing about all “unproduc-
tive” labor and about the claims of professional vanity. Here the case for the
commercial bourgeoisie is presented with lively and contemptuous rhetoric

35
against courtly “spaniels” and an incompetent aristocracy that seeks, by regu-
lating property, to maintain its position. Also, the vision of a world of self-regu-
lating traders has its own descendants, up to NAFTA, the EU, and perhaps
even Marx’s stateless idyll. Yet Smith does not indulge in such dreams.
At the same time, Smith feels the force of the concern that the pursuit of
economic efficiency can degrade human life, especially that of the industrial
worker. He sees the problem and offers universal primary education as a
possible palliative, but it seems to me that he knows that this isn’t really ade-
quate. In the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith may offer a clue to what his
real answer is to the problem of degradation, though it does not apply to the
industrial worker, namely a well-educated, prudent, and reasonable commer-
cial class, animated by those natural sentiments of compassion and benevo-
lence that coexist with self-love.
Finally, one should note something odd about Smith’s denunciation of the
unproductive professions. It includes “men of letters,” that is, philosophers like
himself. Indeed, Smith goes out of his way on several occasions to belittle
philosophers. Why? I suspect that, in a way reminiscent of Hobbes, Smith saw
the need to inspire and encourage the commercial bourgeoisie, to keep it from
being too impressed with the claims of superiority of aristocrats, preachers,
and moralists, too compliant with their high-minded excuses for vainglorious
undertakings. Here Smith really does take the opposite tack from Rousseau,
but I suspect his overt philistinism may be as rhetorical in purpose as some of
Rousseau’s more heroic flights may also have been. Smith’s philosopher also
is reminiscent of Bacon’s, those providers of good things to the people who
rule indirectly and, for the most part, out of sight. The philosopher of the bour-
geoisie must maintain a proper humility, whatever the reality such a procedure
might conceal.
LECTURE SIX

36

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. How did Adam Smith extend Lockean views?


2. What is the doctrine of comparative advantage?

Suggested Reading

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

Other Books of Interest

Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. New York: Prometheus


Books, 2007.

37
Lecture 7:
The Federalist Papers
(Professor Fred E. Baumann)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Alexander Hamilton, John Jay,
and James Monroe’s The Federalist Papers (edited by Isaac Kramnick).

Introduction
The Federalist Papers are, with the
Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution, among the most important
founding documents of the United States.
They were Alexander Hamilton’s idea, writ-
ten mostly by him and James Madison with
some help from John Jay, in order to get
the Constitution ratified by New York State
in 1787. The Constitution was drafted on a
somewhat ad hoc basis because the
Articles of Confederation had proved a dis-
aster, with a weak Congress presiding over
weak and often incompetent state govern-
ments, and in order to set up a stronger
and more competent federal government.
The Constitution was opposed by the “Anti-
Federalists” who saw it as reintroducing

© Library of Congress
tyranny. Thus, Publius (the pen name all
three adopted) had, in effect, the task of
showing how Lockean political theory could
be applied to a particular place and time
This is the title page of the first edition of
and provide a government that was both The Federalist, considered one of the
strong and limited. most important works on statecraft and
political theory written by Americans. This
Our Difficulty particular copy was owned by Alexander
Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth, who gave it to
The Federalist is hard for us to appreciate her sister, Angelica Church, from whom
precisely because the Constitution has her friend, Thomas Jefferson, acquired it.
been such a great success that it appears Jefferson was one of Hamilton’s
retrospectively unproblematic. We tend to greatest opponents. The essays in The
Federalist were written over the pseudo-
think that democracy works in some self- nym “Publius,” because identifying the
evident way, and that the people are wise individual authors aroused controversy.
enough to rule themselves as a matter of
course. Thus, we tend to dismiss the great
dangers that the Founders thought they were facing and to become impatient
LECTURE SEVEN

with their fears about democracy. Yet Lincoln only echoes Federalist 1 when
he sees the Civil War as “testing whether that nation, or any nation so con-
ceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

38
The Basic Solution
“Mixed government,” that is, the balancing of different interests through
institutional power allotment, is a story as old as Aristotle. The Constitution
does that through its three separate branches, its division of the legislative
branch through federalism. But those “parchment barriers” have to be
grounded in the actual situation of the country, as the fate of many
American-style constitutions in post-colonial Africa and Asia has demonstrat-
ed. Federalist 10 demonstrates how the American situation can be made to
work. The problem is majority faction, that is, the danger of democratic
tyranny. Madison rules out dealing with the “root causes.” Either you would
have to shut people up altogether, which destroys the point of free govern-
ment, or you would have to make them virtuous, in the old classical way.
The latter won’t work because, following Hobbes and Locke, human pas-
sions coexist with their reason; that is, reason can’t control them and hence
a virtuous republic is not in the cards. But the effects can be dealt with,
paradoxically, by encouraging and multiplying faction as much as possible,
by “extending the sphere,” so that the very size and multiplicity of the coun-
try can be used to create a kind of perpetual, largely economic and therefore
compromisable conflict that will sort itself out in large, wobbly political coali-
tions that will compete for those factional allegiances. Human selfishness,
properly arranged, can produce long-term stability and reasonably enlight-
ened and moderate government. Within government, as 51 demonstrates,
the same principle can be used to uphold the institutional conflicts that pre-
vent one branch from becoming tyrannical. Thus “ambition must be made to
counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the
constitutional rights of the place.” This seems pretty cynical, but Madison is
unrepentant: “It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices
should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is gov-
ernment itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”
Then and Now
The historical context of the debate has to be kept in mind. The Federalist
was open about the need for a vigorous executive. Later differences on this
between Hamilton and Madison had not yet arisen. Similarly, legislative
supremacy, supported by the power of impeachment, was assumed. The
relative weakness of the Supreme Court, and thus its need to be buttressed,
was also pretty much taken for granted. The danger was seen as a radically
populist House of Representatives that would go in for “a rage for paper
money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property,” a danger
that would be checked by the aristocratic, unelected Supreme Court and the
indirectly elected Senate. The world that arose after the advent of Progres-
sivism, with its egalitarian professional upper classes, changed a lot of the
institutional forces and characters and made some original concerns almost
incomprehensible. Particularly hard to understand, once the extension of
equality had become the program of the morally superior, was, in Richard
Hofstadter’s words, the Founders “distrust of . . . the common man and
democratic rule” so clearly expressed in 51. Was the United States really only
about the accommodation of base interests through clever technical means?

39
The Low and the High
In fact, the political rhetoric of the Federalist points to a different understand-
ing of the appropriate nobility of democratic life than today’s, where it is typi-
cally understood as seeking the extension of equality. Thus, in Federalist 1,
Hamilton, and following him, Jay, in 2, raises the question of bad motives.
First, Hamilton attacks the bad motives of the Anti-Federalists, but, aware
that such charges can be made reciprocally and that they tend to destroy
trust and demoralize political life, he backs off and admits that their intentions
may be upright. Consequently, he will not reveal his own motives; everything
must depend on the power of his arguments. Similarly, Jay urges that the
Constitution receive “sedate and candid consideration,” but he admits that
this “is more to be wished than expected.” Somehow, candor about the low
and interested realities of political life becomes the basis for civility of dis-
course. Because we all know we have interests, we don’t have to moralize
indignantly about how immoral our opponents are. Though we know that the
debate is likely to be ugly, we can still reasonably try to hold to higher stan-
dards ourselves. Admission of baseness as the basis of magnanimity and tol-
erance may sound strange to us, but it gives an important clue to what the
Founders had in mind for the “enlightened statesmen” they speak of. While
these worldly, Lockean gentlemen might not always be present and might
have to be substituted for by low, institutional expedients, still the Founders
had hopes that, when present, their ambitions would lead them to broader,
more public-spirited views, and that the institutions that had been designed to
hold a place for them might let them balance against the more naïve and
grubby forms that simple democratic fervor might take. In that, they recog-
nized that the ultimate balancing act required here was between the radically
democratic principles of the regime and the necessary checks against simple
democracy that its long-term survival required.
LECTURE SEVEN

40

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. What was demonstrated in Federalist 10?


2. How did Progressivism make the concerns expressed in the Federalist
almost incomprehensible?

Suggested Reading

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Monroe. The Federalist Papers.
Ed. Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penguin, 1987.

Other Books of Interest

Ketcham, Ralph, ed. The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional


Convention Debates. New York: Signet, 2003.

41
Lecture 8:
The French Revolution and Empire
(Professor Donald M.G. Sutherland)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Donald M.G. Sutherland’s The
French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a Civic Order.

The goal of the French Revolution was to establish the principles stated in
the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” of August 26, 1789.
These principles included equality of taxation, equality before the law, free-
dom of expression, assembly, and religion, defense of private property, and
due process of law.
Although generally accepted now, at the time they were revolutionary
because they challenged the political and social structure of Old Regime
France. Equality before the law and equality of taxation abolished the tax privi-
leges of the Church, nobility, certain office holders, and certain provinces.
Freedom of expression and assembly eliminated the monopoly of the Catholic
Church on public worship. Due process of law eliminated arrest without trial,
the famous lettres de cachet. Public consent to taxation ended the right of the
king to levy taxes more or less unilaterally. The revolutionaries were not, how-
ever, republicans. Louis XVI was immensely popular at the beginning and the
revolutionaries thought it possible to construct a constitutional monarchy with
separation of powers that would guarantee political liberty.
This situation had come about because of the mounting expense of warfare
in the eighteenth century. While many defended monarchy as efficient, and
militarily necessary, others wor-
ried about the Crown’s claims to
tax without consultation of proper-
ty owners. The propaganda of the
Enlightened writers also promoted
religious toleration as opposed to
the leading bishops who opposed
it, while a series of sex scandals
brought the Queen and the Court
into disrepute. The ultimate issue
was the constitutional right to tax
and fiscal accountability.
The Estates General, later the
National Assembly, met at
Versailles in May 1789 to solve
these issues. There was a broad
LECTURE EIGHT

This contemporary rendering of the


“Declaration of the Rights of Man and the
Public Domain

Citizen” shows that French revolutionary


patriotism borrowed from the familiar
iconography of the Ten Commandments.

42
consensus that fiscal privileges would have to go, but the deputies were at
loggerheads over the issue of birth versus merit in access to public office.
This was eventually settled by August 1789, but it took force from the outside
to ensure it.
Popular violence made the French Revolution distinct from the struggles
among elites that marked other European countries. But the violence in Paris
was never independent of broader political contexts either. Parisians believed
that protecting the National Assembly from dissolution was essential to
obtaining tax relief and lower bread prices. Thus they attacked the Bastille on
July 14, 1789, to obtain powder for their weapons, a step that would be nec-
essary to forestall the feared dissolution of the National Assembly.
Politicians were also capable of profiting by popular violence to advance
their agendas. One example would be the night of August 4, 1789, where
noble and clerical deputies were made to renounce their privileges to forestall
the spreading peasant insurrection in the provinces. The now renamed
“Constituent Assembly” in this session eliminated tax privileges, clerical and
seigneurial dues and tithes, private ownership of public offices, provincial
immunities, and the monopolies of guilds. The obverse was the “Declaration
of the Rights of Man,” which redefined the relationship of citizens to the state.
Another example of the confluence of action between the politicians and the
crowds was the October Days of 1789. Huge throngs of women later followed
by the National Guards journeyed to Versailles to avenge an insult to la patrie
by royalist troops and to force the royal family to take up residence in Paris.
But as the crowds were escorting the “Bakers’ family” to the Tuilleries Palace,
politicians took advantage of the chaos to intimidate Louis XVI into sanction-
ing the “Declaration of Rights” and a law allowing him only a suspensive, not
an absolute veto over future legislation.
The Revolution could not stabilize itself because growing popular opposition
to its major legislation made an extremist response attractive, and those radi-
cals to whom such a response was attractive saw the removal of Louis XVI
as essential. The king had ruined his reputation among the revolutionaries for
his unfortunate attempt to flee Paris: the Flight to Varennes episode on June
21, 1791.
Moreover, opposition to several reforms of the Constituent Assembly pro-
voked violent outbursts. This was especially true for the oath to the Civil
Constitution of the Clergy. This redefined the Church-state relationship after
the nationalization of Church property and the abolition of the tithe and feu-
dal dues. By subjecting the parish clergy to popular election, the measure
jeopardized the independence of the local clergy. A majority of the parish
clergy was willing to surrender its independence, but in large areas of the
country, they were not. In Lower Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Poitou,
Flanders, Alsace, and parts of southern France, huge majorities of clerics
refused the oath, and many lay people supported them. The counterrevolu-
tion was gaining popular support.
At the same time, the king’s flight to the eastern frontier alerted revolutionar-
ies to the possibility of Austrian intervention—Marie-Antoinette was the sister
of the Austrian Emperor. Jacobin orators, especially Jacques-Pierre Brissot,

43
argued for a preventive war that would disperse the émigré armies which had
gathered, composed in large part of noble officers who had fled the country.
France was sure to win, these speakers claimed, because a free people was
invincible against slaves. Robespierre and his colleagues spoke against war,
arguing the time was not ripe. This was the beginning of a major split in the
Jacobins, or political radicals between pro-war “Girondins” and (for the
moment) anti-war “Montagnards.” As it happened, the Girondins won the
debate and France declared war on April 20, 1792.
The war and the internal crisis put Louis XVI in an impossible position. He
vetoed laws designed to contain the antirevolutionary clergy, to punish the
émigrés, and to reinforce troops on the frontiers. The Jacobin clubs in Paris
and the provinces erupted in rage, claiming Louis could not use his constitu-
tional veto to undermine the Constitution. Provincial National Guard batallions
set out to Paris to overthrow the king. The most famous were those from
Marseille singing the marching song that still is the French national anthem.
On August 10, 1792, the provincials and troops of Parisian radicals over-
threw the monarchy. But this failed to solve the problems of invasion and
internal insurrection. As a way of forestalling a fifth column, behind the front
lines radical journalists like Marat and Fréron urged a prison massacre
before setting off to fight the Allied invaders. This was the motive behind the
notorious September Massacres, where fourteen hundred prisoners, mostly
civilians, many simply prostitutes, were hacked to death in prison yards or in
the streets.
This action divided the newly elected National Convention from the start.
Girondins were appalled; Montagnards defended the atrocities as national
defense. All they could agree on was the proclamation of the Republic
on September 22, 1792.
In fact, the artillery battle at Valmy turned back the Prussian army on
September 20, 1792. Later, the much-derided French army defeated the
Austrians at Jemappes (November 6, 1792), which led to the annexation
of Belgium.
This gave time for the Convention to conduct the trial of Louis XVI. The king
was found “guilty” nearly unanimously, but the deputies split over his fate.
Girondins wanted to refer the question to a referendum while Montagnards
wanted immediate execution with no reprieve. The Montagnards won that
vote, and so Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. This dramatic
defiance of European opinion did nothing to solidify the Republic, but it did
create the suspicion that the Girondins were secret counterrevolutionaries
because they had tried to save the king.
These divisions, both inside the Convention and elsewhere in the country,
created a massive challenge for the revolutionaries. With the declaration of
war on Great Britain, Spain, and the Dutch Republic in February and March
LECTURE EIGHT

1793, France found itself at war with every great power except Russia. When
the Convention decreed conscription to meet this challenge, large areas of
the country rebelled. In the West of France, in the area known as the Vendée
militaire, whole communities formed a Catholic and Royalist Army to demand
a restoration of the ancestral religion and traditional monarchy. Also, General
Dumouriez, the commander in Belgium, tried to rouse the army to restore the

44
“sane part of the Convention.” He failed, but the Austrians defeated the
French at Neerwindin on March 18, 1793. Other regions of the country
rebelled too. Many of the large cities of the South, cities that had suffered
their own version of the September Massacres, one by one rebelled against
the Jacobins in a movement known as the “Federalist Revolt.” Finally, the
economy was on the verge of collapse. Since the government financed the
war through inflation—taxes were in huge arrears—prices soared, there were
shortages of everything, and food rioting was spreading.
The Convention responded with a series of ad hoc emergency measures—
price controls, preemptive arrests of suspects, special powers for courts that
permitted quick verdicts with truncated procedures, a Revolutionary Tribunal
in Paris with similar powers, the establishment of a Committee of Public
Safety to oversee all aspects of government, which sent out its own members
as “representatives on mission” to supervise recruiting and other special
measures, and so on.
Outside challenges led to an increasingly radical application of these mea-
sures. The string of victories of the Vendean armies, the Federalist takeover
in Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, and Toulon, the forcible expulsion of the
Girondins from the Convention on May 31, 1793, Charlotte Corday’s murder
of Marat in his bath, and the accession of Robespierre to the Committee of
Public Safety—all made extremist solutions more attractive. Thus following
the mass demonstrations in Paris on September 4 and 5, 1793, the
Convention passed a new Law of Suspects, put Terror on the order of the
day, ordered the Girondins and Marie-Antoinette put on trial where they were
promptly found guilty, and tightened economic controls.
The greatest repression came after the victories against the Federalists and
Vendéans. At Lyon, for example, hundreds of prisoners were mowed down
with cannon fire. Vendéan prisoners were drowned at Nantes, one military
commission in the West condemned over six hundred people to death in three
days, the Committee of Public Safety endorsed a slaughter of civilians within
the Vendée itself, and the Convention passed a law in June 1794 that stripped
the accused of remaining legal protections; this led to more people being exe-
cuted in Paris in the succeeding six weeks than in the entire previous year.
Many deputies, however, found such measures threatening and so a small
cabal brought Robespierre and his friends down on July 28, 1794.
Robespierre’s execution inaugurated a period known as the “Thermidorean
Reaction,” a failed attempt to establish the rule of law. This opened the way
for Bonaparte’s dictatorship.
This rise of Napoleon Bonaparte was the confluence of his extraordinary mil-
itary success and the conviction of the political class that the source of the
instability of the Revolution was the electorate’s habit of electing the wrong
sort of people. Fickle elections forced the politicians to subvert the vote
through violence or chicanery. The solution appeared to be the adoption of a
constitution that would filter out the voice of the electorate. Napoleon would
be an ideal figurehead, because it would associate the army with the project.
Yet Napoleon’s popularity made him independent of the politicians. His extra-
ordinary victories in Italy in 1796 and his dictating of the Peace of Campo
Formio the next year electrified the public who saw him as the “man of 1792,”

45
the defender of Liberty in France, and its missionary abroad.
Thus, following the coup of November 1799, Napoleon was able to trans-
form his position from First Consul to Consul for Life, and finally to Emperor
in 1804. The process was to exploit victories like those of Marengo and
Hohenlinden (1800) that released troops to suppress royalist insurrections at
home that in turn convinced the British and their allies that there was no alter-
native except to make peace (Treaties of Luneville and Amiens, 1801–02).
He also used royalist assassination plots in 1800 and 1804 to repress
Jacobins and to assume more power, including, at last, the Crown.
The Consulate was the most productive period in the creation of permanent
French institutions. While political liberty certainly suffered, the Concordat
(1801) ended most of the religious strife of the previous decade by granting
religious liberty. A literalist definition of equality also suffered with the intro-
duction of the Legion of Honor (1802) and later with the establishment of the
imperial nobility (1808); anyone was eligible on the basis of merit and
achievement, not birth. This same legal egalitarianism permeated the Civil
Code (1804) and the Criminal Code (1811). Distinctions were based on gen-
der, not birth or class. That is, women could not serve on juries, married
women’s property rights were restricted, and there was a gendered standard
of divorce. Finally, the
phenomenon of having
elected citizens adminis-
ter local government was
ended with the institution
of prefects, a form of
government that exists to
this day. Prefects admin-
ister the territorial units
called departments on
behalf of the central gov-
ernment, with locals in
only a consultative role.
The peace with Britain
broke down in 1803 over
colonial issues, trade
rivalries and tariffs, and
finally, British refusal to
evacuate Malta, and the
© Clipart.com/Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste.

great struggle against


Great Britain and a shift-
ing array of allies contin-
ued until Napoleon’s final
and decisive defeat at
LECTURE EIGHT

Waterloo in what is now


Belgium in 1815. But
much of the Napoleonic
legacy endures to this
day even so. Napoleon Bonaparte Abdicates in Fontainebleau
by Paul Delaroche, 1845

46

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. Why were the principles stated in the “Declaration of the Rights of Man
and the Citizen” so revolutionary?
2. Why did radicals see the removal of Louis XVI as essential?

Suggested Reading

Sutherland, Donald M.G. The French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a
Civic Order. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

Other Books of Interest

Andress, David. The French Revolution and the People. London: Hambledon
& London, 2004.
———. The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France.
New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.
Brown, Howard G. Ending the French Revolution: Violence, Justice, and
Repression from the Terror to Napoleon. Charlottesville, VA: University of
Virginia Press, 2006.
Doyle, William. Origins of the French Revolution. New York: Oxford University
Press, USA, 1989.
———. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. New York: Oxford
University Press, USA, 1990.
Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French
Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

47
Lecture 9:
Romanticism and Romantic Art
(Professor Timothy B. Shutt)

The Suggested Readings for this lecture are Meyer Howard Abrams’s
Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic
Literature and William Vaughan’s Romantic Art.

The Romantic Era


The legacy of Romanticism is still very much with us. As a more or less self-
conscious movement, to be sure, Romanticism faded well more than a centu-
ry ago. But the movement left its mark, and as a culture, in many respects,
we all still share in the sensibility that Romanticism fostered.
In the short term, Romanticism marked a reaction to the high culture of the
mid- to late-eighteenth century, in the first instance to Classicism and the ten-
dency to value in art above all balance and proportion, the finished perfection
and polish that the age attributed to Classical art, but also, and perhaps more
profoundly, to the quantifiable world of matter in motion—and on some
accounts, of nothing else—revealed by the scientific revolution. And more
profoundly still to something not far from the whole Enlightenment project, the
wish in all possible ways to base human life and institutions not on tradition
and religious conviction but on the dictates of reason.
The Enlightenment, in its turn, had arisen in large part in reaction to the age
of religious warfare in aftermath of the Reformation, which had itself arisen in
reaction to the perceived excesses and corruptions, theoretical and practical
alike, of the late medieval and Renaissance Church. A thoroughly rationalized
view of the world, though, once the wish for it had come to dominate elite cul-
ture, seemed less fully satisfying and less persuasive than had been hoped. It
seemed, in fact, to leave out of the picture and unaccounted for a good deal of
what in practice made life worth living. And those excluded or marginalized
factors were precisely what Romanticism sought to emphasize and celebrate.
Romanticism tended accordingly to favor mystic apprehension, to favor intu-
ition and passion over reason, to favor chaos over order, to favor individual
genius and inspiration over balance and equipoise, to favor process over
product, the glorious fragment over the perfected whole—and in a very far-
reaching change in sensibility, to favor the sublime wilderness, the untamed
forest, mountain crags, and the stormy sea over trim, tended gardens and
fertile fields. From our own post-Romantic perspective, it is hard to imagine
that for centuries, indeed for millennia, wild, untamed nature—the wilder-
ness—-had been far more often feared and avoided, even hated, than cher-
ished and sought. But so it was. The paradigm of beauty was not the Alps,
the Lake District, or Yosemite. It was the enclosed garden—the Garden, as it
LECTURE NINE

were, of Eden rather than the Wilderness of Zin.


With Romanticism all this changed and changed on a wide front. Roman-
ticism tended to be more or less democratic and anti-hierarchical in its ten-
dencies, interested in freedom, in the common people, very much against the
slave trade, favorable to women and to the still often inchoate stirrings of

48
interest of what would become women’s issues. It was interested in what
from a European perspective was exotic, in far-off places and foreign cul-
tures. And it was interested in the irrational, in transgression, in sexuality, in
wildness, in violence, and in evil.

The writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78), in particular his celebra-


tion of the natural affections and his mistrust of the morally debilitating effects
of sophisticated and ambitious social life, anticipated and encouraged some
aspects of Romantic sensibility, and so too, in a more concrete sense, did the
values and upheavals of the French Revolution and of the Napoleonic era
which followed, as French armies sought to abolish feudal hierarchies wher-
ever they triumphed. In 1806, for example, the French soundly defeated the
forces of Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstadt, and what is now
Germany proved highly susceptible to Romantic sensibility in all its guises. A
whole array of German philosophical thinkers contributed in one way or
another to the movement, among them Johann Gottfried Herder
(1744–1803), Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), the brothers August
Wilhelm (1767–1845) and Friedrich von Schlegel (1772–1829), Friedrich
Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854), and perhaps most prominently,
Georg Wilhlem Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831). The brothers Jacob Ludwig Carl
(1785-1863) and Wilhelm Carl Grimm (1786–1859) published their famous
collection of German folktales, Kinder- und Hausmärchen, in 1812 and 1815.
And Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) became perhaps the most celebrat-
ed Romantic artist of them all.
Romantic Art
In the visual arts, mean-
while, Caspar David Friedrich
(1774–1840) made his own
distinctive contribution. In
1973 critic M.H. Abrams pub-
lished his influential study,
Natural Supernaturalism,
arguing, among other things,
that the Enlightenment cri-
tique of traditional religious
belief, and of traditional
Christianity in particular,
opened the space for a new
sort of spirituality that found
the expression of the divine
not so much in doctrine or in
ritual as in nature. Friedrich
strikingly exemplifies just
such a sensibility in visual
terms. In his Cross in the
© Photos.com

Mountains (1808) and his


Abbey in the Oakwood
(1810), for example, and in The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog
many other paintings, he by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818

49
depicts traditional religious symbols and religious structures in a vividly por-
trayed natural context that suggests, in effect, that the religious meaning
which they once bore has been taken over by nature herself. In another large
series of paintings, of which Woman Before the Sunset (1818) and The
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog can serve as examples, he depicts from the
rear, and most often at some distance, a figure or small group of figures star-
ing at a splendid natural scene, a sunrise or sunset, the open sea, a moun-
tain landscape or whatever. We are implicitly invited to share in their rapt
contemplation. And in at least some paintings, the splendid Meadows before
Griefswald (1820–25), for instance, Friedrich relies on the landscape itself to
bear his meaning.
Very different in sensibility were figures like the Swiss Henry Fuseli
(1741–1825), whose The Nightmare (1781) offers a terrifying, and more or
less explicitly erotic, vision of a sleeping woman visibly beset by evil dreams
in the form a ghostly horsehead and, kneeling upon her, a grinning incubus.
More accomplished still, and more disturbing, is the great Spaniard,
Francisco Goya (1746–1828). I remember as a child first seeing a reproduc-
tion of his print, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (ca. 1798), in the
guise of strange, demonic owls emerging from a sleeper’s head and body,
and being genuinely frightened. More unsettling still are his very late paint-
ings, among them Saturn Devouring One of His Children and Vision of the
Pilgrims of San Isidro (both ca. 1820–23).
French Romantic painters were, on the whole, more attuned to the exotic
than the grotesque, though Théodore Géricault’s (1791–1824) The Raft of the
Medusa (1818) is grisly enough to satisfy all but the most jaded. The younger
Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) was particularly fascinated by violent action
and often enough by exotic locales, whether in Algeria, the imagined past or
the underworld, or even, as in Liberty Leading the People (1830), in the
streets of Paris.
The Romantic painters of England, despite the powerful mythological fan-
tasies of William Blake (1757–1827), were on the whole closer to Friedrich in
sensibility. The two most accomplished were both powerful in depicting the
natural world. John Constable (1776–1837) was reared in the flatlands of
East Anglia and showed throughout his career a special love for the open sky
and for atmospheric effects, visible not only in more conventional works like
Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds (1823), but perhaps even
more strikingly in his later studies of the ever-changing English cloudscape.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) was so interested in the evoca-
tion of atmosphere that by the end of his career his works, whatever their
putative subject, verge close to abstract expressionism, as Slavers Throwing
Overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon Coming On (1839) or, perhaps
even more clearly, in Rain, Steam, and Speed (1844) clearly reveal. Turner
seems, ever more fully, to be interested not so much in depicting what things
look like as in evoking how they might make us feel, relying upon broad
LECTURE NINE

swathes of color to evoke their energy and power.

50

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. What are the major characteristics of Romanticism?


2. What was Joseph Turner’s artistic aesthetic?

Suggested Reading

Abrams, Meyer Howard. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in


Romantic Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973.
Vaughan, William. Romantic Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 1978.

Other Books of Interest

Friedrich. Trans. Anna Bennett. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1999.

51
Lecture 10:
Romanticism and Literature
(Professor Timothy B. Shutt)

The Suggested Readings for this lecture are found in The Norton
Anthology of Poetry, edited by Alexander W. Allison, Herbert Barrows,
Caesar R. Blake, Arthur J. Carr, Arthur M. Eastman, and Hubert M.
English, Jr.

Romanticism by no means found its only expression in visual art, and the
legacy of Romantic literature is, if anything, even richer, particularly in
Germany and England, which proved particularly susceptible to the Romantic
impulse. Probably the most distinguished of all writers generally considered
to be Romantic in orientation—though even such a capacious rubric as that
will not contain him—is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), generally
considered as well to be the greatest of German writers simply. His acknowl-
edged masterpiece is his Faust—a drama concerning the German magus
who by legend sold his soul to the devil—upon which Goethe worked for
most of his long professional life, beginning about 1770 as a young man,
publishing Part I in 1808, and publishing Part II only in 1832, the year of his
death. No work in German is more celebrated, and in German it is magnifi-
cent, but for some reason, it does not translate into English as smoothly as
other works of comparable merit. More influential for Romanticism, perhaps,
was the early and semiautobiographical The Sorrows of Young Werther
(1774) about an unhappy love-affair, a work which ended with a suicide that,
so we are told, prompted would-be imitators all over Europe. Likewise cele-
brated in Germany and beyond were the dramatist and poet Johann
Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805), a friend and associate of
Goethe, and Friedrich Leopold von Hardenberg, a poet and novelist who
wrote under the pseudonym “Novalis” (1772–1801).
I rather doubt that at that time anyone considered themselves pre- anything,
but in retrospect, several English writers have frequently come to be taken as
“pre-Romantic,” notable among them Christopher “Kit” Smart (1722–1771)
and, even more so, William Blake (1757–1827). Smart suffered from a com-
pulsion to pray in public severe enough to lead for a time to his being con-
fined as insane. While in confinement he composed his Jubilate Agno, a long
litany of praise based on Hebrew verse forms, the most celebrated portions
of which are the eighty-odd lines that he charmingly devotes to his “Cat
Jeoffry,” his companion in confinement, who according to Smart “duly and
daily” does his best to serve “the Living God.” The brilliant and vigorous
eccentric William Blake was a visual artist of distinction as well as a poet,
who engraved and illustrated his own works. Blake was a visionary, formulat-
ing his own mythological cosmos, expounded in long, elaborate works (like
The Four Zoas and Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion), which
LECTURE TEN

appeal primarily to specialists, but his earlier Songs of Innocence (1789) and
Songs of Experience (1794) are more accessible and include, among others,
as a counterpart and counterweight to his “The Lamb,” his famous “Tyger!
Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night.”

52
Romanticism in England often enough ran in parallel with what for the time
were radical political views and with, to put the matter gently, rather unconven-
tional sexual behavior. Mary Shelley (1797–1851), author of Frankenstein, or
the Modern Prometheus (1818), which she wrote in her late teens, was the
daughter of William Godwin (1756–1836), author of Caleb Williams (1794) and
a noted radical in his own right, and of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–97), author
of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), who died shortly after giving
birth to her. Godwin thereafter remarried, and in 1814 both Mary Shelley and
her stepsister Jane “Claire” Clairmont ran off, at the ages of seventeen and fif-
teen respectively, with the already once-married Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792–1822), establishing a ménage a trois which would endure until Shelley’s
death (which did not, however, preclude Claire Clairmont’s bearing a child to
Lord Byron in the meantime). Shelley’s first wife, meanwhile, drowned herself
in the Serpentine in London in 1816, leaving two children behind. George
Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824), who spent much of 1816 in Geneva with
the Shelley entourage, had meanwhile established himself as the prototypical
transgressive, dark, and dangerous Romantic hero, both in his writings and in
his life. He was legendarily attractive to women—by reputation not least
among them his half-sister Augusta—he swam the Hellespont, living out in
real life the famous classical story, and he died, of disease as it happened,
hoping to assist the Greeks seeking independence from the Ottoman Empire.
To this day popular figures and celebrities seek, knowingly or not, to recapitu-
late the glories of his career. He was an immense popular success with works
like Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, The Corsair, and Manfred, and the crisp, ironic
swagger of Don Juan still reads well, though his reputation is not what it was
in his own time.
Percy Shelley, too, still
gains admirers, to some
degree for his impassioned
lyrics, and to some degree as
well for his relentless,
uncompromising, full-throttle
commitment to his own
views, whatever the cost—
either to others or to himself.
The most accomplished, and
in the end, the most highly
regarded of the English
Romantics, however, were
less self-destructive in their
passions. And no English
lyric, perhaps, ever written
has been more influential and
far-reaching in its effects than
William Wordsworth’s
© Clipart.com

(1770–1850) “Lines
Composed a Few Miles
Above Tintern Abbey.” William Wordsworth
“Tintern Abbey” was, in the by Benjamin Haydon, 1842

53
first case, influential in terms of stylistics. It was a thematic centerpiece of
Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772–1834) Lyrical Ballads
(1798, 1800), which according to its Preface sought to introduce a simpler,
more colloquial poetic style, and to introduce as well a sort of poetic ethic of
sincerity, seeing poetry at least in part as the “spontaneous overflow of pow-
erful feeling.” But “Tintern Abbey” was likewise influential in its full literary
evocation of the “religion of nature,” most clearly, perhaps, in the following
celebrated lines in which Wordsworth proclaims himself a “worshipper of
Nature” (152). In regarding the natural world, Wordsworth maintains,
I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. (93–102)
Influential as Wordsworth was, however, at his rare best Wordsworth’s friend
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was even better. Coleridge was slightly younger
than Wordsworth, a brilliant and charismatic student, though sometimes sickly
and given to depression. He took opium in the guise of laudanum to help him
cope with these ills, and in later life had to work hard to fight his addiction.
But at the peak of his powers, he was an inimitable, inspired poet.
Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” his own major contribution to the
Lyrical Ballads, exemplifies some of his powerful work, and testifies to a very
different sort of Romantic sensibility than that exemplified in “Tintern
Abbey”—a love of mystery and mantic vision, of far-off places and times long
past. So, perhaps, even more so, “Kubla Khan,” which Coleridge bills as “A
Vision in a Dream, a Fragment.” “Kubla Khan” was evidently written in 1797
and remained incomplete. Coleridge published it only in 1816. On his own
account of the matter, he composed most of it quite literally in a dream after
falling into an opiated doze while reading about Kubla Khan in “Purchas’s
Pilgrimage,” an early seventeenth-century collection of travel narratives. Upon
awakening, he began to write, only to be interrupted “by a person on busi-
ness” from the nearby village of Porlock—and when he returned to his pen,
he found that his dream verses were lost. The tale itself is a sort of exemplar
of the evanescence of Romantic inspiration—to paraphrase a later poet, our
poetic reach must exceed our grasp if we are to have inspiration at all. But
fragmentary as it is, the poem is stunning in its exotic, evocative power. The
opening lines are unforgettable.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
LECTURE TEN

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran


Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea. (1–5)

54
The power of Coleridge’s imagery here speaks for itself, but what might not
rise to full consciousness on an early reading is the incantatory character of
the lines’ assonance and alliteration. Coleridge is master of sound and meter,
and here his mastery works with something close to mesmeric effect. But as
he himself concedes in concluding his “Fragment,” to maintain such vision,
even fully to recover it, is beyond his powers. “Could I revive within me” that
“symphony and song,” he says,
To such deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise. (43–54)
John Keats (1795–1821) was a contemporary of Shelley and Byron, and as
a poet, tragically brief as his career was—he died of consumption before he
was out of his mid-twenties and wrote his greatest works a year or two earli-
er, before his health failed—Keats was by consensus superior to either—
indeed, from some perspectives one of the four or five greatest poets ever to
write in English. Shelley and Byron were both aristocrats and educated
accordingly. Keats’s father, by contrast, ran a livery stable. Nonetheless, he
overcame such disadvantages to write some of the finest works in the lan-
guage, notable for a kind of tough-minded, rueful wisdom as well surpassing
felicity of expression. Particularly noteworthy were his great “Odes”: “To
Autumn,” “On Melancholy,” “To a Nightingale,” and perhaps above all, his
“Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which, prompted by an ancient Greek vase, he
ponders mortality from the perspective of a young man who knows it all too
well, and ponders as well, in the light of mortality, what to make of the joyful
but fleeting moments of inspiration and vision that seem to suggest that in
spite of all, our life is meaningful and rich. He concludes his meditation
addressing the “urn” in the following terms:
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. (46–51)
Which I take to mean that we have no guarantees, joy and delight, those
moments of coherence when everything seems not only to make sense but to
glow with what feels to be an otherworldly light are what they are. And that’s
all we can say.

55

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. Why did the Romantics tend to value wilderness and wildness?


2. Why did the Romantics tend to value process over product?

Suggested Reading

Allison, Alexander W., Herbert Barrows, Caesar R. Blake, Arthur J. Carr,


Arthur M. Eastman, and Hubert M. English, Jr., eds. The Norton Anthology
of Poetry. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1983.

Other Books of Interest

Wu, Duncan. Romanticism: An Anthology. 3rd ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.


LECTURE TEN

56
Lecture 11:
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
(Professor Joel F. Richeimer)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology


of Spirit, translated by A.V. Miller.

Hegel is easily the hardest


philosopher to talk about. He is
also probably the worst writer in
the history of philosophy. And
that is saying something. And to
make matters worse, if they could
be worse, to understand his final
philosophy, you will need to study
the introduction to his philosophy,
a five-hundred page densely
written book, called the
Phenomenology of Spirit.

© Clipart.com/Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin


So you would think that between
the terrible writing and the length
of his books, no one would read
his books. And in fact, few do.
But what Picasso said is perhaps
typical of many of Hegel’s fans.
An interviewer asked Picasso Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
who was his favorite philosopher. by Jakob Schlesinger, 1831
Picasso said, “Hegel.” The inter-
viewer was surprised, knowing the difficulty of reading Hegel. And the
interviewer asked if he had read any of Hegel. And Picasso said, “No, of
course not.”
Yet in spite of the fact, that Hegel’s books are a hell to read and very long
and he can’t write a clear sentence, Hegel is engaged in a profound project.
And if you look at his work seriously, it will transform you. Hegel’s influence
is enormous, even if indirect. Marxism, existentialism, phenomenology,
and British Idealism are only a few of the movements that treat Hegel as
their founder.
But it also has to be said that this is the one philosopher where there is no
doubt that it is best to begin with a secondary source.
Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is the introduction to his philosophical work.
“Phenomenology” means a description of your experience from the internal
point of view, not from an outsider’s point of view. “Spirit” is harder to explain.
It is sometimes translated as “mind” or it is left is the German as “Geist.” I will
explain what spirit means later. But for now, think of it as self-awareness. So
the phenomenology of spirit is the study of experience of growing self-aware-
ness—from the point of view of the person who is self-aware.

57
Hegel, in this audacious, ambitious, even arrogant book, is mapping out the
stages of self-awareness. Try to think back to high school. And try to think of
the kind of awareness you had at that time. It is of course hard to remember
the mindset one had in high school. Most of it cannot be recovered. But some
very general and abstract things can be said. For instance, the kind of self-
awareness you have now is quite different from the kind of self-awareness
you had then. You don’t see the world in the same way.
Likewise, the mindset you had in high school could not imagine what you
think or feel now.
But, finally, what you feel and think now is not totally disconnected from
what you thought then. Maybe you can’t recall the connection. But there is
probably some connection, even if it is hard to identify.
Hegel is making a map of all of the stages of human consciousness, not
just for the individual, but for the human race as a whole. So far this is all
very vague. But here is another example that might help locate his project.
We tend to think of some societies as politically advanced, as politically
sophisticated in some way. For instance, they can handle democracy and its
conflicts in a peaceable and rational way. They can deal with diverse popu-
lations and maintain a civil society. They have low levels of corruption. Other
societies are less successful. They can’t deal with their conflicts. There is
less social trust. And so we think of societies as being ranked on degrees of
success. Or to put this in a more Hegelian way, different societies have
achieved different degrees of self-awareness. In this way, we do have a
Hegelian feeling, some informal idea, that different societies have achieved
different levels of consciousness.
Here are some general points to Hegel’s project that will hopefully begin to
fill in the picture.
First, as I already mentioned, Hegel thinks of self-consciousness or self-
awareness as occurring in stages and thinks that these stages can be
mapped. This is perhaps key.
Second, for Hegel, there is no one to one mapping between biology and the
level of consciousness. There is no direct link between the age of the indi-
vidual and the stage of consciousness. And the same is true for societies.
You cannot read off the age of the individual from where they are in Hegel’s
map of self-awareness.
Third, in fact, for Hegel, individuals and societies can get stuck. Hegel is
interested in how people get stuck in a certain stage. And he writes a good
deal on that topic. Also, some individuals and some societies move faster
than others through the stages. So it is wrong to think of the stages in too
biological rigidly terms.
Fourth, Hegel’s account is phenomenological. It is told from the insider’s
LECTURE ELEVEN

point of view. This requires some more explanation. Every individual and
every society is aware of itself. It has some self-awareness. Hegel claims that
its self-awareness is incomplete or abstract. That incompleteness or abstrac-
tion generates an instability within that awareness. And that instability sets off
the dynamic either to move on and develop a deeper sense of self-aware-
ness or to get stuck and repeat oneself over and over again.

58
As I said, Hegel thinks that the instability within self-awareness can be
caused by either incompleteness or abstraction. Incompleteness is easier to
understand. Incompleteness is not being wrong; it is being partial. It is easy
to discover that your understanding is incomplete.
The other case requires a bit more discussion. Instability within your self-
awareness can be caused, according to Hegel, by the overly abstract nature
of your thought. Now that sounds like a joke. Even a mere glance at Hegel’s
book—you might consider it just a series of abstractions. What can be more
abstract than Hegel’s book, the Phenomenology of Spirit? Yet Hegel thinks
that it is the average person who is lost in abstractions!
To make sense of Hegel’s point, consider looking at a tree. You walk down a
path and alongside the path are trees. What do you see? Well, if you are me,
you just see “tree”—the abstract category “tree.” I don’t usually notice each
tree. And I certainly don’t notice every leaf of each tree, I don’t see the bark, I
don’t attend to how each limb bends and twists. No, I just see a vague notion
of “tree.” It is true that I can stop and look at a tree. I will then see more. But
in general, I just see “tree.” Now imagine a botanist walking down the same
path among the same trees. What does the botanist see? Clearly, more. The
botanist will see that there is a maple or that there is an elm. The botanist
might notice the type of maple trees or what have you. Now imagine a
botanist who specializes in tree diseases walking down the same path. What
would that person see? Clearly even more. That person will notice that a par-
ticular maple has a specific disease on a particular branch. He might notice
how the disease is spreading among the trees, how certain leaves are curled,
how a certain tree might be resistant and show no signs of the disease. And
on it goes. Hegel’s point is this—as your concepts increase, you think less
abstractly. The botanist has more concepts than me, so for Hegel the
botanist thinks less abstractly than me. The tree specialist has more concepts
than the botanist, so the tree specialist sees even more—precisely because
they have more concepts. For Hegel, the ordinary person is lost in abstract
and vague concepts.
For Hegel, as your concepts increase, the distance between your thoughts
and the world decreases.
That point is absolutely central to understand Hegel. And it is worth repeat-
ing: as your concepts increase, the distance between your thoughts and the
world decreases.
Now we can understand a bit better what Hegel means by “spirit.” The
movement of self-awareness has its own dynamic. The movement of spirit is
to increase concepts so that the gap between thought and the world decreas-
es. Of course, Hegel is not claiming that you are aware that is what you are
doing. But later, when you reflect on the process of becoming more and more
aware, that is what you will discover is happening.
This brings us to the fifth point. When an individual or a society achieves a
higher level of awareness, it does not abandon its previous understanding. It
does not drop it like a hot potato. It just sees its limits (either as too abstract or
as incomplete), so in some sense it is still preserved. Actually, even when
people think they are totally rejecting their past, they are, according to Hegel,

59
preserving it. By doing the opposite as before or by rebelling, one is, in a
sense, working within the same categories, the same way of thinking. If con-
sidering the history of revolutions, for instance, what are purportedly dramatic
breaks in history in hindsight reveal strong continuities. It is not obvious that
the Russian Revolution was really such a deep break from the Tsarist regime.
So that introduces the sixth point. You can’t really skip stages. You can’t
hand a country a democracy. They have to work through the process and find
it for themselves. So-called “skipping a stage” means really not getting
beyond a stage. It means being trapped in the same stage but perhaps using
different terms to describe it. Again, you can’t skip stages, because these
stages are not something intellectual that you could learn from a book. You
have to live it. There is no alternative. You have to do the work.
The seventh point is that there is analogy between what Hegel is doing and
what historians of science are doing. The historians of science do not write a
complete history of science. Most of the history of science is left out. The his-
tory of science is really the history of the successes of science. It is the story
of Galileo and Newton and Einstein. It is not the story of “Joe Schmo.” It
is not the history of all of the scientists. Most of whom were doing fairly
routine things. So what is the history of science? It is the history of the most
advanced elements of the scientific community. The history of science is the
history of the successes and failures of—if you wish—the avant-garde of the
scientific community.
Hegel is doing something quite similar. He is tracking the most advanced
elements of human consciousness. He is interested in how some people
get stuck and how some people find their way out and move on to an
even more advanced stage of consciousness. He is tracking the avant-
garde of consciousness.
The eighth point is that, according to Hegel, all understanding is retrospec-
tive. It is after the fact. Understanding and living move in opposite directions.
You live forwards but you always understand backwards. If that is true, then
you really can’t understand where you are now. You can only understand
your past. You can only understand previous stages.
Which brings us to the ninth point. We are now in a better position to under-
stand the difficulty of Hegel’s book, the Phenomenology of Spirit. If you read
the book, you will only understand the book up to a point. Which point? The
place where you are now. You can’t understand the book beyond your pre-
sent stage of consciousness.
This is perhaps similar to the common experience of parents. They know
that their children simply can’t understand certain things. They are not at a
stage where they can understand. So parents say things such as, “You will
understand when you get older” or “You will understand when you have chil-
dren.” Of course, the parent knows that it is hopeless to say those things.
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There are simply some things that you can’t explain to a thirteen-year-old. It
is not because the child lacks the facts, but because he or she lacks a certain
kind of awareness.
The final point is that Hegel himself must have absolute knowledge. He must
have complete understanding. Why? Because he was able to write the book.

60
At least, that is how he explains the situation.
We need an example to make this a bit clearer. Hegel unfortunately does
not give examples. So let’s examine the most famous chapter of Hegel’s
Phenomenology of Spirit—the so-called “Master and Slave” chapter.
It would help to imagine a stage of consciousness where the meaning of
“you,” your worth, the truth of who you are, is seen by you as outside of you.
So imagine the consciousness that places its worth in how it is perceived.
So we are imagining a stage of consciousness, to use Hegel’s terms, where
“self-consciousness achieves its satisfaction only in another self-conscious-
ness” (Hegel, 110).† Or also as Hegel puts it, “self consciousness exists in
and for itself when and by the fact, it so exists for another; that is, it exists
only in being acknowledged” (Hegel, 111).
So the other has a power over you. Their judgment matters to you. But of
course you are the one who gives them that power. You define yourself by
their judgment. But note in this stage that you lack the awareness that it is
you that is giving them this power.
That “other” need not be any one in particular. It might be an undefined
“other.” It is just “they,” the them, no one specifically, but you feel the weight
of their judgment.
There are different pathways and responses that one can go down from
here. Some lead to dead ends. You might remain a prisoner of the other. Or
you might try to impress the other—thereby thinking you will free yourself
from his judgment. Or you might resolve the tension through fantasy life,
imagining yourself as showing the other that you are really great or misunder-
stood or not whom he thinks you are.
In any case, all of those options preserve the power of the other over you.
They maintain the importance of the other in your life. So, for instance, if you
try to impress the other—you are not really liberating yourself from the other.
You are keeping the other as a force in your life.
One could of course remain in this stage.
But imagine that the other becomes for you a specific person. No more—
a vague “they.” Rather there is someone in particular whose judgment is
haunting you. As Hegel puts it, “self-consciousness is faced by another self-
consciousness” (Hegel, 111). But Hegel quickly adds, “It does not see the
other as an essential being, but in the other sees its own self” (Hegel, 111).
You are confronted with a particular person whose judgment of you matters
to you. But—and here is Hegel’s point—you do not really see that person as
a person, as an essential being. You just see them in terms of you. In some
deep way, they are not even there. It is your understanding of them that is
haunting you.
Consider again a child’s relationship to his mother. The child really cannot
see the mother as a human being, who, as a human being, has interests,

† All Hegel quotes are from Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A.V. Miller. New York:
Oxford University Press, USA, 1979.

61
desires, plans, fantasies, and hopes. The child sees the mother purely as a
mother. The child cannot see the essential being of the mother as a person.
Again, there are many possible pathways here, many ways one can
respond. One can remain in that state. One can try to dismiss the person.
But, according to Hegel, the path that leads to greater self-awareness is con-
flict—a conflict between two individuals, each trying to dominate the other.
Each is trying to make their reality the reality.
The productive conflict only works if it is mutual. If the other person does not
take you seriously, if they refuse to get into a conflict with you, then the con-
flict will only be in your head. And you will still be trapped.
Let’s say it is mutual. Hegel writes, “in such a situation, those involved rec-
ognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another” (Hegel, 112). You
can think of this as an ego clash. Hegel again, “Each seeks the death of the
other” (Hegel, 113). Each is seeking the psychic death of the other person to
affirm his or her own reality. The idea that my worth is in the hands of that
other person, that that person “sees” me and defines me and judges me—is
too much. So there is a conflict. Again for Hegel there are many pathways,
many possible outcomes.
But Hegel is insistent that the person who avoids such a conflict actually
loses. That person has no opportunity to liberate himself from the judgment
of the other. Hegel writes, “the individual who has not risked his life may be
well recognized as a person, but he has not attained to the truth of this
recognition as an independent self-consciousness” (Hegel, 114). Hegel is
saying that the person who has avoided such an ego-threatening conflict is
still, of course, a person. But such a person has not attained the self-confi-
dence that arises from self-awareness that they are an independent con-
sciousness. It is only by engaging in such a conflict that you can gain your
independence. Avoiding the conflict, for Hegel, traps you.
Let’s call the winner of the conflict the “master.” And we will call the loser of
the conflict the “slave.”
Hegel points out that the master in some deep way actually loses. The mas-
ter wins the conflict, by definition. But now the master is dependent on the
slave. The master needs the slave as a witness to his victory. In terms of
self-awareness, it is the master who loses. He becomes dependent on the
slave acknowledging him as a master.
Success is a trap. Consider a rock star. A rock star creates his fans, creates
his audience. The audience loves the rock star. The rock star thinks he is a
master. He is in control. The audience only exists because of him. But actual-
ly, according to Hegel, the reverse has happened. The rock star is dependent
on the audience. The rock star needs the audience as a witness to his
achievement. But his need makes him, in effect, a prisoner of the audience.
LECTURE ELEVEN

The audience is, of course, fickle. The audience controls the value of the rock
star. The rock star created the music and plays the music. But the value of
the music is now in the hands of the fans. And so the value of the rock star is
in the hands of the fans.
Karl Marx was very influenced with this idea. He saw the great industrialists
as creating the workers. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and others, these

62
giants, created industries. They took farmers and peasants and transformed
them into industrial workers. They created the factories. They created the
industries. They created the workers. But what happened over time?
According to Marx, the creators died and the factories were taken over by
their children, who did not understand how the factories worked. So they
hired workers and made them managers to run the factories for them. So
what happened? The masters create the slaves, but then the masters are
dependent on the very slaves they created. Marx, of course, predicted that
this will lead to revolution.
The master, according to Hegel, fought and risked his psychic life for recog-
nition. But now this recognition is from someone who has no value to him.
Marcel Proust, in the classic Remembrance of Things Past, tells the story of
Marcel. Marcel is wealthy. He has power. He has a mistress named
Albertine. He controls Albertine. He can have her any time he wants. She will
do whatever he says. He thinks he is the master. But this all becomes an illu-
sion. He wants Albertine to love him. She knows who butters her bread. So
she says, “I love you.” But he wants her to “really” love him. She says, “I real-
ly love you.” He controls her. He is the master. And yet, he finds himself
dependent on her. He created her. He made her his mistress. But now he
needs the approval and the love of a mistress whose approval can’t mean
much because he controls it. Meanwhile, Albertine, though she is under the
thumb of her master, has reached a higher degree of self-awareness of
whom she is and what matters. As Hegel says, “in this experience, self-con-
sciousness learns that life is as essential to it as pure self-consciousness.”
This is a small sliver of Hegel’s map of the unfolding of self-consciousness.
If you work through all of these stages of the Phenomenology of Spirit, you
are, according to Hegel, ready to read his philosophy.

63

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. Why might it be better to begin a study of Hegel with a secondary source?


2. What is meant by, “As your concepts increase, the distance between your
thoughts and the world decreases”?

Suggested Reading

Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A.V. Miller. New York: Oxford
University Press, USA, 1979.

Other Books of Interest

Harris, H.S. Hegel: Phenomenology and System. Indianapolis: Hackett


Publishing Company, 1995.
Kojève, Alexandre. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the
Phenomenology of Spirit. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980.
Lauer, Quentin. A Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. 2nd ed. New
York: Fordham University Press, 1993.
Soll, Ivan. An Introduction to Hegel’s Metaphysics. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1970.
Taylor, Charles. Hegel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.
LECTURE ELEVEN

64
Lecture 12:
Karl Marx
(Professor Fred E. Baumann)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Friedrich Engels and Karl
Marx’s The Communist Manifesto (translated by Samuel Moore).

Introduction
Karl Marx is best known as the founder of
Communism. Its failures seem for many to
mean Marx’s failure too, but that is a hasty
conclusion. True, most philosophers were
too prudent to put their bets on the future,
but Marx was in a way compelled to do it.
An emancipated German Jew, a philoso-
pher who accepted the historical nature of
truth as taught by Hegel, he was born in a
restored dynastic world whose very “restor-
er” knew it to be doomed. A new world was
being born with great speed and power;
Marx’s task was not only to understand it
but to change it for the sake of humanity.

© Clipart.com
Marx’s Problems
Marx’s thought can be understood as a
response to two problems, one philosophi- Karl Marx
(1818–1883)
cal, one political. By showing man as his-
torically adaptive, Rousseau had begun to
undermine the very teachings of natural right he himself still employed. If
humans are truly self-creating beings then there is no standard (natural or
otherwise) outside history to judge them, and no standpoint within history,
including the present, has any claim to authority. Thus historicism foreshad-
ows nihilism. Marx’s teacher Hegel had a daring answer. By demonstrating
that all of history was comprehensible immanently, by relating every phenom-
enon to every other one, he had shown that history’s point was to reveal to
man his own freedom, his own transcendence of mere happenstance. This in
turn implied that history, understood as alien necessity, was over and a ratio-
nal standard could again be used to judge the human world. Marx accepted
this answer, speaking of an end of “pre-history” and the imminent beginning
of a true history of human freedom.

The political problem also stemmed from Rousseau, namely the apparent fail-
ure of the French Revolution to make the general will a reality. Hegel was will-
ing to accept that the legal state that emerged from that revolution had, in
effect, achieved that reality. Marx, and the other Left Hegelians, found this
response grossly inadequate. It was in his rejection of idealism, both political
and epistemological, and in his reception of English economics that Marx
found a way that history itself would make real the world of the general will.
65
The Communist Manifesto
A popular pamphlet, coauthored by Engels, the Manifesto is still a good guide
to the elements of Marx’s theory. It begins with the claim that the history of the
world is class struggle. This means that the Hobbesian fight for survival actual-
ly continues in civil society but in team form. Liberal individualism is bogus and
we have, in effect, never left the “state of nature.” One class controls the his-
torically crucial means of production (once land, now factories) and the others
suffer. Oppressors have to oppress because there isn’t enough to go around.
And their oppression is universal; it includes culture and philosophy, which
present its “ideology,” that is, rationalizations for oppression.
Thus liberalism, with its individual rights (including property), is bourgeois
ideology. Like all others, the liberal state is despotic. The good news, though,
is that the bourgeoisie, through its insensate pursuit of property, has solved
the problem of natural scarcity. Industrialism has called up the possibility of a
world of undreamed of wealth where there is more than enough for everyone,
and where someday people’s lives can mostly be spent freely pursuing their
interests and desires. The bad news is that the rule of the bourgeoisie has
replaced natural with artificial scarcity. It is the pursuit of profit that drives the
engines of efficient production. Yet this means paying workers as little as
possible (that is, stealing from them in the form of hours of labor per day, in
order to sell as cheaply as possible). This becomes a vicious self-strangulat-
ing cycle in a globalized economy where workers as a whole are also, ever
more, the market as a whole. That is, capitalism is predicated on a world that
no longer exists, where private property reflected the realities of private pro-
duction. In the new world, production is social and private property an absur-
dity. Hence, the really good news: communism solves the problem of artificial
scarcity and emancipates humanity from necessity. Fortunately, too, every-
thing the rich bourgeoisie is doing to protect itself actually brings on that
emancipation. Its agent is the industrial proletariat, those oppressed, alienat-
ed workers who are thrown together into quasi-military production gangs,
abandoned by the world, and who can find only in collective action, and the
collective consciousness that arises with it, the way to overcome their plight.
Industrialism destroys all the old “middle” classes and reduces the world to a
conflict between one huge class and one tiny one, with its criminal and luxu-
ry-trade hangers-on. Ruthless competition among capitalists makes it impos-
sible for the bourgeois class as such to buy off the workers by hiking wages
or even to avoid the ever more cataclysmic economic crises that eventually
will likely set off a revolution in the most powerful, industrialized nations in
the world.
Marx is cautious about describing the new world. A transitional “dictatorship
of the proletariat” is to give way ultimately to full communism, in which the
state, as an agent of compulsion, gives way to mere administration. People
LECTURE TWELVE

will live with a degree of collective consciousness (the general will made sec-
ond-nature) unknown now, but at the same time will be far freer individually
than ever before. Religion (a “defect”) will disappear as unneeded. Death will
be accepted as the species renewing itself and the horizon of what the young
Marx called “species being” will give enough meaning to life.

66
The Significance of Historical Events
In fact, liberal societies succeeded in buying off the industrial workers.
Communism came through war and conquest to countries that, according to
Marx, weren’t really prepared for it. What to make of this? First, perhaps Marx
was not situated historically as well as he thought. Capitalism changed, as
even Lenin admitted. Second, the theory of the proletariat as the salvific uni-
versal class may have been grounded less in analysis and more in hope.
Third, religious and national sentiments proved more resilient than Marx
expected. Fourth, the transcendence of politics was not so easily achieved,
particularly within the Communist movement itself, where what Marx thought
relatively unproblematic, the leadership of a proletarian movement by bour-
geois intellectuals, proved highly problematic. Aristotle might have asked
Marx about the implications for human nature of the unexpected longevity of
political differences even among Communists. Yet, whatever one thinks of
Marx’s thought in itself, it is worth considering that it represents a kind of
high-water mark for the claims of the modern project, of the Enlightenment. It
proposes to resolve all contradictions. Community, liberty, wealth, nobility, liv-
ing for self, living for others, the pursuit of happiness and its attainment, all
are to be made real, under the benevolent eye of human science.

67

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. What two problems were Marx’s thoughts a response to?


2. What is meant by “species being”?

Suggested Reading

Engels, Friedrich, and Karl Marx. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel
Moore. New York: Penguin, 1967.

Other Books of Interest

Kolakowski, Leszek. Main Currents of Marxism. Volume 1. The Founders.


Trans. P.S. Falla. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008.
———. Main Currents of Marxism. Volume 2. The Golden Age. Trans. P.S.
Falla. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008.
LECTURE TWELVE

68
Lecture 13:
Darwin and the Theory of Evolution
(Professor Timothy B. Shutt)

The Suggested Readings for this lecture are Charles Darwin’s The
Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of
Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of Man and
Selection in Relation to Sex.

Charles Robert Darwin is, along


with Aristotle, probably the most
influential biological thinker who
ever lived, and the theory of evo-
lution that Darwin developed not
only serves as a conceptual
framework for vast reaches of
contemporary biological thought,
but has proved instructive and
influential in many other fields as
well. Darwin’s early life, however,
gave relatively little indication of
the great achievements which
were to come. He was born to a
wealthy and distinguished family.
His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin,
had in fact toyed with evolutionary
ideas in his own right, and his
mother’s family were the
Wedgewoods of Wedgewood
© Clipart.com
china fame. After a reportedly
happy childhood in the hills and
fields around Shrewsbury, Darwin Charles Darwin, age 51
(1809–1882)
went off to Edinburgh in hopes of
becoming a physician and then to
Christ’s College, Cambridge, in hopes of becoming a clergyman. He distin-
guished himself at neither institution, devoting a good deal of time to collect-
ing the natural specimens that had intrigued him since childhood. In 1831, he
procured, on the recommendation of J. S. Henslow of Cambridge, an invita-
tion to serve as an unpaid naturalist on H.M.S. Beagle, bound to South
America and then into the great South Sea and around the world. Darwin’s
exasperated father was less than impressed with the offer, but his grandfa-
ther Wedgewood proved more indulgent, and Darwin embarked on his life-
changing voyage. En route he kept up with his reading, regularly sending
specimens home, and on the Galapagos Islands in September and October
1835, he encountered the closely related array of finches that had, in that iso-
lated and restricted environment, seemingly adapted to fill a whole range of
otherwise vacant and ordinarily unfinchlike environments. By the time he
returned to England in 1836, at least the outlines of his great theory were
clear. Well aware of the controversy its publication was likely to arouse, how-

69
ever, he postponed publishing to gather an array of what he hoped would
prove inconvertible evidence.
The problem confronting him was how to account for life and consciousness,
for the seeming orderedness and designedness of the biological world, in the
sort of mechanistic, non-teleological or non-goal-driven terms in which
Newton had accounted for the motions of the cosmos. For the biological
world seemed to resist such explanation. It made little sense to inquire what
purpose the planetary orbits or geological features might fulfill. To ask what
the purpose of the eye or the digestive system served, though, seemed a
very different sort of question. They really did seem designed, and indeed,
surpassingly well designed, in order to perform a certain function. How, then,
to account for them in the more or less resolutely non-theological, non-goal-
driven terms in which it seemed that one could plausibly characterize the
inanimate world? It seemed, in fact, that one could not do so, and indeed, the
most influential work addressing such subjects in Darwin’s youth was William
Paley’s Natural Theology (1802), which argued in detail that the orderedness
of the biological world was a powerful argument in favor of its divine creation.
Darwin’s alternative answer depended on three interrelated factors. The first
was random variation. Though each organism is in many respects very much
like the other members of its species, no two (save identical twins and the
like) are in fact identical, and Darwin was well acquainted with the efforts of
livestock breeders who took advantage of just such variations to develop new
breeds of domestic animals. He had at his disposal no mechanism by which
he could account for the transmission of inherited characteristics—that would
not come until Gregor Mendel’s work on genetics became readily available
after Darwin’s death. But he knew perfectly well that in practice such charac-
teristics were transmitted.
In the course of stockbreeding, though, the breeder chooses which animals
will reproduce and which traits are to be selected. What Darwin needed, by
contrast, was some mode of natural selection between variants, and he found
it in the writings of Thomas R. Malthus, who in An Essay on the Principles of
Population argued that reproduction always outpaces the resources neces-
sary for life, and hence, that all living organisms are under some sort of popu-
lation pressure. Not all can survive, not all can reproduce. That pressure pro-
vides the means for selection. All things being equal, those organisms best
adapted to their environment, whatever that environment might be, are more
likely to survive and to reproduce than those less well adapted. And as the
process continues from generation to generation, their descendents will, by
and large, be better adapted still.
For all of this to take place, though—for different species to develop with the
exquisite adaptions which in fact we see—seemed to require a great deal of
time, more time, as it happened, than was available by virtue of then-prevail-
LECTURE THIRTEEN

ing ideas. By Darwin’s time the traditional notion that the world was only a few
thousand years old seemed to be losing credibility, but Darwin needed much
more time than that and Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology gave it to him.
Lyell’s assumption was that existing geological features are the long-term
result of the same sort of processes that we see at work at present, and if that
were so, the age of the earth was to be measured not in thousands of years
but in many millions.

70
That completed the puzzle. To account for the diversity and the well-adapted-
ness of the biological world, then, Darwin relied upon the process of natural
selection working upon random variation over the course of deep time—result-
ing in the origin of species. He still hesitated, though, to make these ideas
public. What prompted him at last to do so was a paper from a younger natu-
ralist—and potential rival—Alfred R. Wallace (1823–1913). In June 1858,
Darwin received a copy of Wallace’s “On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart
Indefinitely from the Original Type.” Wallace’s ideas were close enough to
Darwin’s own that he thought it best to overcome his reticence, and in July
1858, Wallace’s essay and some previously unpublished writings by Darwin
himself on the subject were presented to Linnean Society of London. Under
the circumstances, Darwin felt unable to publish the huge—and hugely conclu-
sive book—which he had planned, and the existing On the Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection (1859), extensive work though it is, represents
what, in Darwin’s own perspective at least, he was able to patch together in
relatively short order. The Descent of Man followed in 1871.
Darwin, then, proposes a relatively straightforward answer to the perennial
question, what is the meaning of life? From a biological perspective the mat-
ter is simple—survive and reproduce, and indeed, our inclinations guide
strongly in just that direction. But on another level, Darwin’s theory is very
sophisticated indeed and represents, in its way, something close to a whole
new style of thinking. Random variation followed by selection represents a
new and remarkably effective solution to what is termed the “uncertain
futures” problem. Planning can deal only with changes that it anticipates,
and many changes are unexpected. Random variation, though, can, and on
occasion does effectively, if accidentally, anticipate changes which are
unforeseen. Evolution is, in this sense, simultaneously random and bound-
ed—random insofar as underlying variation is concerned, bounded, though,
by virtue of selection for the conditions obtaining in the immediate environ-
ment. We are accustomed to thinking of things as either random or deter-
mined, but Darwinian thinking refuses to adhere rigidly to either possibility—
Darwinian processes are in one sense random, in another not. And once the
paradigm is established, it is not difficult to find Darwinian processes at
work, not just in the biological world, but elsewhere, to take one salient
instance, in the marketplace, where all sorts of companies seek to thrive
by efficiently fulfilling commercial demand—and some succeed and many
do not. Indeed, as William James, among others, recognized, there is
something not unlike a Darwinian marketplace in the world of ideas and
perceptions as well. Some allow us to engage the world successfully,
others markedly less so. That sort of selection, indeed, is going on around
us all the time. Effective direction without foresight, working by means of
feedback loops in a stochastic, self-regulating process of adaption—that
is the Darwinian paradigm.
None of which is to suggest, however, that Darwinian thought does not raise
its own array of problems. One has to do with “intermediate adaptions.” For
evolution to work, an adaption has to be advantageous at every stage of its
development, “half-wings” and “almost eyes” have to be adaptive in their own
right in a mode that has challenged the ingenuity and energies of theorists
and paleontologists.

71
More far-reaching perhaps are the difficulties arising from sexual selection.
All things being equal, it would seem disadvantageous for a bird living in the
treetops to be bright red, like a male Scarlet Tanager, and the peacock’s tail,
as has been so often noted, seems little help in the process of either conceal-
ment or food-gathering. In most respects life is probably easier without an
extensive rack of antlers. But—if one can prosper in spite of such disabilities,
one’s well-being is an unfalsifiable testament to overall vigor and fitness in
much the way we would be forced to assume that a marathoner winning
while wearing a backpack was a better runner than those left behind and less
encumbered. So sexual selection. We all, from a Darwinian perspective—or
all us likely to leave descendents—want the best deal that we can get.
Sometimes there are advantages to disadvantage.
In large part because of its political implications, as vexatious a Darwinian
issue as any is the issue of altruism and group selection. At first thought the
Darwinian world would appear to propose a rigorously individualistic zero-
sum game. I win to the extent that you lose. Period. Social theorists, though,
have generally been unhappy with a doctrine that at least seemingly suggests
that we must prey upon one another like monsters of the deep. But how to
account for altruism? The answer here appears to be that if the goal of the
Darwinian game is to send as many genes as possible into the next genera-
tion, then there are times when selfishness does not pay. We share half our
genes with our full siblings, half with each of our parents, half with each of
our children. Hence, two of them (and the younger the better) equals one of
us. That plus even the most distant cousin tips the balance in favor of altru-
ism. Or so the argument runs.
But Darwinism is still vexatious, notoriously so from at least some religious
perspectives from Darwin’s day to our own, but by no means only on religious
grounds. Progressive thinkers, and straightforwardly Marxist thinkers in partic-
ular, tend to find Darwinian thought objectionable, if not indeed dangerous,
precisely because Darwinian thought suggests that there is in fact such a thing
as human nature, a bequest of biology, which can only to a certain extent be
perfected or modified by even the most salutary material conditions and the
most thorough-going programs of educational or reeducational outreach.
LECTURE THIRTEEN

72

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Questions

1. What was Darwin’s answer to the question of the meaning of life?


2. Why is Darwinism vexatious to Marxist thinkers?

Suggested Reading

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the


Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of
Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. The Modern Library (1859, 1871).
New York: Random House, 1965.

Other Books of Interest

Appleman, Philip, ed. Darwin. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.

73
Lecture 14:
The Nineteenth-Century Novel
(Professor Timothy B. Shutt)

The Suggested Reading for this lecture is Stephen Regan’s The


Nineteenth-Century Novel: A Critical Reader.

As a cultural monument, the


nineteenth-century novel
stands with the drama of
ancient Athens and
Elizabethan England, and
with the painting of the High
Renaissance and of the
Dutch Golden Age—the time
and the place were somehow
right and a whole array of
artists produced masterpiece
after masterpiece, which
would have been unthinkable
in ages beforehand and
stand unsurpassed in retro-
spect. The novel was, of
course, far and away the
dominant literary form of the
nineteenth century, and a
hundred years and more
later, it still governs our
© Clipart.com
expectations of what we
read. It has become for us a
kind of cultural default setting. Young Girl Reading
One of the reasons that stu- by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1776
dents often find philosophy and
poetry hard going is that neither yields very easily to a novelistic mode of
reading. For that, outside of textbooks and the like, is what we expect—that is
how we are inclined to operate when we decide to take up a book. And
though in our own time the novel has to some degree been superseded by
film and television as a popular narrative form, novels are most assuredly still
written and still read.
The comparison with film and television, though, is instructive, for in their
LECTURE FOURTEEN

nineteenth-century heyday, novels were, without serious competition, the


dominant narrative art. And from the outset, a commercial art. It may or may
not be true, as Anthony Trollope reputedly said, that no one but a blockhead
ever wrote save for money, but Trollope himself, and his Victorian counter-
parts, most assuredly did. And they made money. For like film and television,
like, for that matter, the Shakespearian stage and Golden Age Dutch painting,
novels were popular. In fact, they often ran in serial form in magazines

74
designed more or less exclusively to sell them in that guise. That is one rea-
son that they are typically so long. And that too accounts for some of their
power. A reader of a serialized novel enjoyed some of the effects that make
soap operas or continuing television series so engaging, long-term familiarity
with characters who mean more to us the longer we know them.
But all of this presupposes relatively high literacy rates. You can’t make
money selling novels unless a lot people want to read them and are able to
read them. That is one reason why novels developed when and where they
did, for at all times fluent literacy has been relatively difficult of attainment (it is
much easier, even still, for most people to watch a film), and before the time
that novels developed, the literate population was small. Drama, let us recall,
makes no such demands and, still less so, visual arts. Before the rise of the
novel, the default setting for narrative was oral, and oral narrative, rather sur-
prisingly from our own novel-centered perspective, was most typically com-
posed in verse. Think of the Iliad and the Odyssey, of Dante and Chaucer and
even Milton. Think, for that matter, of traditional ballads. For in a functionally
nonliterate world, even written narrative is ordinarily read aloud, and is accord-
ingly written, in some sense, as much or more as a script than a text.
It is interesting and revealing that we don’t really get “art novels,” novels, that
is to say, which are written in the first instance not to entertain and to sell, but
rather to impress critics until the high-water mark of the genre is already past.
Novelists like Thomas Pynchon, like William Faulkner, and like Virginia Woolf
come a generation or more later than the mid-nineteenth-century masters. You
can, indeed, watch the process at work in the career of a writer like James
Joyce, as he moves from Dubliners (1914), to Ulysses (1922), to Finnegans
Wake (1939), the first read by many, the second by some, and the third, if at
all, by specialists. As C.S. Lewis once observed, you can’t persuade the public
that you are entertaining unless, in fact, you entertain.
Antiquity offers relatively few examples of prose fiction, and those from the
time of the Roman empire, when literacy rates were relatively high, by previ-
ous and immediately subsequent, if not by nineteenth-century standards.
During the Middle Ages, however—outside of Iceland at least—verse fictional
narratives were the norm, and it is not until the late sixteenth and early sev-
enteenth centuries that in picaresque tales like the Spanish Lazarillo de
Tormes (1553) or Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) and in
the grand novelistic burlesque of courtly romance, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don
Quixote (Pt. 1, 1605; Pt. 2, 1615) that we get even acknowledged precursors
to the novel. Even the first generally accepted novels in English, like Aphra
Behn’s Oroonoko (ca. 1688) or Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and
Moll Flanders (1722) found their way as purported memoirs or histories. It
took a while for authors fully to conceptualize what they were up to. Samuel
Richardson, before writing the immense, epistolary Clarissa (1747, 1748),
purportedly the longest novel in English, began in Pamela (1740) by writing a
series of exemplary letters for the use of those in need of epistolary models,
a series of exemplary letters, which, rather to his surprise, took on a narrative
life of their own. Henry Fielding termed his splendid Tom Jones (1749), still in
many respects one of the most impressive novels in English, a “comic epic in
prose.” But by the latter half of the eighteenth century, the genre was well-

75
established and growing in popularity, enough so, indeed, that in Tristram
Shandy (1759–67) Laurence Sterne was able to play with novelistic conven-
tion, consistently thwarting our expectations about more or less orderly plot-
lines in a work that consists, and consists deliberately, almost entirely of
(admittedly witty and slyly subversive) digression.
It is telling, though, that even so successful a novelist as Sir Walter Scott, a
breathtaking best-seller in his day, and effectively the founder of historical fic-
tion in his series of Waverly novels beginning in 1814, first gained real fame
as a narrative poet and wrote his first novel well into his own forties. At his
best, by the way, he remains well worth reading, shrewd and good-hearted,
firm in his convictions, and blessed with a most acute sense of character and
a wonderful gift for, particularly Scots, dialogue. His Old Mortality (1816) and,
even more so, The Heart of Midlothian (1818), are particularly fine.
Jane Austen (1775–1817), for one, greatly admired his work, and the work
of Richardson as well, but in her own right she surpassed both of them, and
stands, indeed, among the very best novelists writing in English. Her works
are crisp, short, understated, and all but flawless, each concerned with the
efforts of an agreeable young woman to find a husband among the gentry, or,
in some instances, in a more exalted station in life. This limited range might
seem an impediment, but, albeit by implication, Austen’s range is in fact vast.
Her subject is really, in a sense, ethics, how one should behave, and despite
her taut irony and lightness of touch, she is a most perceptive and exacting
moralist. And a delight to read as well. Works like Pride and Prejudice (1812)
and Emma (1816) remain among the most beloved novels in English, and the
more somber Mansfield Park (1814) and Persuasion (1818) are, if anything,
even better.
The three Brontë sisters, however, Anne (1820–49), Charlotte (1816–55),
and Emily (1818–48), who first published their works under the names Acton,
Currer, and Ellis Bell, found the world of Jane Austen a bit dry and prim. Their
own sensibility was more Romantic, honed by the consumption-clouded par-
sonage on the Yorkshire moors where they grew up in isolation, whiling away
their time in elaborate, precocious fantasies that they tirelessly committed to
writing, and which the most gifted among them, the fearless and visionary
Emily, never entirely gave up. Anne’s Agnes Grey (1848) is still well-regarded,
Charlotte’s works, particularly Jane Eyre (1847), even more so. And Emily’s
Wuthering Heights (1847) is a work of eccentric, ferocious genius.
The most successful of all the Victorians, however, was by a wide margin
Charles Dickens (1812–70), and the serial publication of his novels gained
him something close to worldwide celebrity. The best known of his works are
still common currency, among them Oliver Twist (1837), David Copperfield
(1849-50), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1860–61).
LECTURE FOURTEEN

And they represent but a fraction of his works. Henry James once character-
ized the novels of his Victorian predecessors as “great, baggy, monsters,”
and that characterization applies with as much justice to Dickens as anyone.
Air-tight plotting was not his strong suit, and in latter days, particularly during
the mid-twentieth century, he was excoriated for sentimentality as well as
lauded for his social conscience. His great gifts, though, make up for all. Only
Dostoevsky rivals him in the depiction of the seamy side of urban life—at his

76
best he writes with almost unendurable intensity. And in the exuberant, seem-
ingly effortless evocation of character and characters, not by the dozen, but
by the hundred, and in his ear for the idiosyncrasies of human speech,
Shakespeare, perhaps, is his only rival.
At the time, Dickens’s great rival was William Makepeace Thackeray
(1811–63), but time has not treated Thackeray as kindly. His Vanity Fair
(1847) is still read (though in my opinion his Henry Esmond [1852] is better),
but he shows a kind of mean-spiritedness which just has not worn as well. A
better writer, and if his books are a reliable reflection of character, a better
man, was Anthony Trollope (1815–82), in some sense the Victorian novelist
par excellence. He completed no fewer than forty-seven novels, many of
which bear repeating characters, who reappear, consistently depicted, getting
on with their lives, from one novel to the next and, in effect, evoked some-
thing close to a parallel Victorian universe. His most celebrated works are the
six novels in the Barchester series, beginning with The Warden (1855) and
ending with The Last Chronicle of Barset (1867) and the subsequent six in
the Palliser series, beginning with Can You Forgive Her? (1864) and ending
with The Duke’s Children (1880). Though his works are more rounded and, it
must be admitted, a bit rougher and less polished, Trollope addresses many
of the same themes as Jane Austen, at vastly greater length for certain, if not
with greater insight or precision.
The last, and some would argue, the greatest of the English Victorians, is
Mary Anne (or Marian) Evans, who wrote under the name George Eliot
(1819–80). She was a woman of tremendous intellect, who began her career
translating skeptical, cutting-edge theological works from the German in the
1840s and 1850s, and in 1871–72 she published in Middlemarch perhaps the
most complete and rich of Victorian novels. I remember as an undergraduate,
having cut my teeth on modernist works, reading Middlemarch for the first
time. No stream-of-consciousness, none of the razzmatazz of more recent
works. Instead, an overwhelming, careful intelligence brought to bear at blind-
ing full power upon the details of everyday life. It was a revelation to me. I
didn’t know novelists could do such a thing.
The nineteenth-century novel, though, was by no means confined to the
English-speaking world, and at least four other novelists can easily stand
comparison with the very best of their English-speaking counterparts. Honoré
de Balzac (1799–1850), in his Comédie humaine, a series of some ninety-
one works written from 1827–1847, puts even Trollope to shame in devising
parallel universes. And though I do not find him much to my taste, for many
of the reasons which give me pause in Thackeray, the formal perfection of
Gustave Flaubert’s (1821–80) Madame Bovary has bedazzled critics since it
was written. Even more distinguished are the great Russians, the tortured
Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821–’81), most celebrated for Crime and
Punishment (1864) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880), and his even
greater contemporary, the Count Lev (or Leo) Nikolaevich Tolstoy
(1828–1910), still, and deservedly, the leading contender, by general, if not
universal consensus, for consideration as the most distinguished novelist of
them all on the basis of his monumental War and Peace (1863–69) and
Anna Karenina (1873–77).

77
Questions

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

1. What progression is shown in the novels of James Joyce?


2. What are the great virtues of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens?

Suggested Reading

Regan, Stephen. The Nineteenth-Century Novel: A Critical Reader. New


York: Routledge, 2001.

Other Books of Interest

Anonymous. Lazarillo de Tormes. A Dual Language Book. Ed. Stanley


Appelbaum. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001.
Austen, Jane. The Complete Novels. Ed. Karen Joy Fowler. New York:
Penguin Classics, 2006.
Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko. Ed. Janet Todd. New York: Penguin Classics, 2004.
Brontë, Anne. Agnes Grey. Ed. Angeline Goreau. New York: Penguin
Classics, 1989.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Ed. Stevie Davies. New York: Penguin
Classics, 2006.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Oxford World’s Classic. Ed. Ian Jack. New
York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1998.
de Balzac, Honoré. La Comédie Humaine. Ed. Katharine Prescott Wormeley.
Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.
de Cervantes, Miguel. Don Quixote. Ed. and trans. John Rutherford. New
York: Penguin Classics, 2003.
Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. Ed. Juliet Mitchell. New York: Penguin
Classics, 1978.
———. Robinson Crusoe. Oxford World’s Classic. Ed. Thomas Keymer. New
York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2007.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Richard Maxwell. New York:
Penguin Classics, 2003.
———. David Copperfield. Rev. ed. Ed. Jeremy Tambling. New York:
Penguin Classics, 2004.
LECTURE FOURTEEN

———. Great Expectations. Rev. ed. Ed. Charlotte Mitchell. New York:
Penguin Classics, 2002.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Ed. Philip Horne. New York: Penguin
Classics, 2003.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Trans. David McDuff. New
York: Penguin Classics, 2003.

78

FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING

Other Books of Interest (continued)

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Trans. Richard Pevear and


Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Eliot, George. Middlemarch. New York: Signet Classics, 2003.
Fielding, Henry. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling. Ed. Alice Wakely.
New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary. Oxford World’s Classic. Ed. Mark
Overstall. Trans. Margaret Mauldon. New York: Oxford University
Press, USA, 2005.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. Oxford World’s Classic. Ed. Jeri Johnson. New
York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2001.
———. Finnegans Wake. Ed. Seamus Deane. New York: Penguin
Classics, 2000.
———. Ulysses. New York: Vintage, 1990.
Nashe, Thomas. The Unfortunate Traveller and Other Works. Ed. J.B.
Steane. New York: Penguin Classics, 1972.
Richardson, Samuel. Clarissa: Or the History of a Young Lady. Eds. Angus
Ross. New York: Penguin Classics, 1986.
———. Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded. Oxford World’s Classic. Eds. Thomas
Keymer and Alice Wakely. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2001.
Scott, Walter. The Heart of Midlothian. Oxford World’s Classic. Ed. Claire
Lamont. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2000.
———. Old Mortality. Oxford World’s Classic. Eds. Jane Stevenson and
Peter Davidson. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2001.
Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.
Oxford World’s Classics. Ed. Ian Campbell Ross. New York: Oxford
University Press, USA, 1998.
Thackeray, William Makepeace. The History of Henry Esmond, Esq. Oxford
World’s Classics. Ed. Donald Hawes. New York: Oxford University Press,
USA, 1991.
———. Vanity Fair. Ed. John Carey. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.
Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.
———. War and Peace. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
Trollope, Anthony. Collected Works of Anthony Trollope. Charleston, SC:
BiblioBazaar, 2008.

79
COURSE MATERIALS

Suggested Readings:

Abrams, Meyer Howard. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in


Romantic Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973.
Allison, Alexander W., Herbert Barrows, Caesar R. Blake, Arthur J. Carr,
Arthur M. Eastman, and Hubert M. English, Jr., eds. The Norton Anthology
of Poetry. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1983.
Beik, William. Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Brief Study with Documents.
New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the
Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life and The Descent of
Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. The Modern Library (1859, 1871).
New York: Random House, 1965.
Engels, Friedrich, and Karl Marx. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Samuel
Moore. New York: Penguin, 1967.
Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Monroe. The Federalist Papers.
Ed. Isaac Kramnick. New York: Penguin, 1987.
Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A.V. Miller. New York: Oxford
University Press, USA, 1979.
Pearson, Roger. Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom. New York:
Bloomsbury USA, 2005.
Regan, Stephen. The Nineteenth-Century Novel: A Critical Reader. New
York: Routledge, 2001.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Rousseau: “The Discourses” and Other Early
Political Writings. Ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1997.
———. Rousseau: “The Social Contract” and Other Later Political Writings.
Ed. and trans. Victor Gourevitch. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997.
Scruton, Roger. Kant: A Very Short Introduction. Rev. ed. Oxford University
Press, USA, 2001.
Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations. New York: Modern Library, 2000.
Stroud, Barry. Hume. London: Routledge, 1985.
Sutherland, Donald M.G. The French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a
Civic Order. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2003.
COURSE MATERIALS

Vaughan, William. Romantic Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 1978.

These books are available online through www.modernscholar.com


or by calling Recorded Books at 1-800-636-3399.

80